People fall victim to online scammers offering leaked IELTS test 'papers'

By Le Thu   October 16, 2022 | 04:02 pm PT
People fall victim to online scammers offering leaked IELTS test 'papers'
An IELTS examiner screens candidates’ body temperatures before letting them get into the testing room in February 2022. Photo courtesy of IDP's Facebook
The British Council and IDP, Vietnam's only two IELTS testing institutions, are warning candidates not to fall for online scammers offering "authentic" test papers.

After getting a score of 4.5 last year, Pham Nhung retook the IELTS test many times but could not get higher marks.

The sophomore at a university in Hanoi wants to get a score of 6.0 as soon as possible to meet her school’s graduation criterion.

She looked up online earlier this year for community groups selling IELTS exam papers.

After she contacted a page, a staff member offered three different packages: VND599,000 ($24.45) for IELTS predicted questions every quarter until December 2022, a VND5 million "Diamond" package with eight exam papers delivered two or three months before the exam and a VND36 million "VIP" package with one "genuine" test with "100% accuracy" included.

The person told Nhung the exam questions were "top secret" and obtained directly from the British Council and IDP.

She bought the Diamond package after seeing several good reviews on the page.

But the actual test did not match any of the exam papers she had received. When she tried to get a refund from the, she was blocked.

Nhung is among many people paying millions of dong for "genuine" IELTS test papers with answers. The demand for IELTS is skyrocketing as more and more universities have made the certificate one of their admission priorities.

In 2017, only a few colleges had IELTS as an admission criterion. But that number increased last year when more than 30 schools incorporated it into the admission process.

There are many other similar scammers like the page Nhung contacted who extract VND120 million with a promise candidates will receive the "authentic" test paper the day before the exam.

One Tiktok account with over 10,000 followers even said online "Selling IELTS BC (British Council) - IDP" for VND5-45 million.

Steve Adams, regional exams director for East Asia at the British Council, said he is aware there are many groups online and offline tarnishing the reputation of the IELTS exam.

They claim to have people working inside the IELTS testing centers who can leak the test paper.

Some even claim to use technology to "alter IELTS scores," "produce fraudulent IELTS certificates without taking the actual examinations," and "fake test results on the online IELTS score confirmation system."

These adverts can be found on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and come by email.

Scammers also often approach students at exam venues and test preparation centers.

Adams said such actions and marketing are fraudulent.

IDP said on its website that these services are a scam and legal offense.

Diep Nang Binh, head of Tinh Thong Luat Law Firm and a member of the HCMC Bar Association, said the selling of IELTS test papers by offering a 100% guarantee of success is tantamount to appropriating property by fraud and "deception."

Candidates should report these groups to authorities and refrain from engaging in this "potentially risky financial and unlawful" behavior, he added.

The British Council warned that cheating could result in cancelation of exam results, test bans for two years and denial of reviews for a period at all IELTS testing centers.

Nguyen Huong Ngoc Quynh, a University of London graduate who received an IELTS score of 9.0 in August this year, said learning English is a long process and acquiring counterfeit IELTS tests is a waste of money.

If students cannot afford preparatory courses, they could buy books and search for IELTS preparation materials online, she said.

"After all, the most effective method is to practice, practice and practice."

Nhung, who lost money after being conned into buying bogus exam papers, has decided to study diligently for the next six months.

She has got a friend, who scored 8.5 in IELTS, to tutor her twice a week.

She also attends meet-ups with a large number of foreigners on a regular basis to improve her communication skills.

"I hope my hard work will pay off and I get a 6.0 IELTS score next year," she said.

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