TODAY   |  March 22, 2012

Lawsuit targets bogus online GED tests

The GED Testing Service has filed a lawsuit against what it says is a network of 13 websites that allegedly used the GED trademark to offer fake tests and diplomas.  NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>> warning from the people who run the g.e.d. test for students who didn't finish high school but want a diploma. there's an online scam . tom costello has details on this. good morning to you.

>> the testing service went to court to get this temporary restraining order shutting down websites that allegedly use the g. g.e.d. brand. they think they are taking the test, but they are getting taken.

>> are you ready for school?

>> reporter: with a night job and three kids, denise richardson knew going back to high school or getting her g.e.d. would take more time than she had. she wept online for the perfect solution . for a few hundred dollars she could take it online and get her diploma.

>> it was a perfect opportunity. it's where they got me.

>> reporter: after $500 and a five-hour test, she got her diploma. a local technical college was suspicious.

>> we lookeded at it. we called the 800 number and it didn't work.

>> reporter: the test and diploma are fake. she's not alone. the g.e.d. testing service have reported getting taken the same way.

>> if you are not coming in person to our testing center, it's not the real g.e.d. test and not going to be recognized by colleges.

>> reporter: a network of 13 websites, some already shut down that used the g.e.d. trademark for tests and diplomas. one in five adult americans, 40 million people don't have a high school diploma . the unemployment rate for that group is more than 13%. each year, 800,000 people take the g.e.d. hoping to get a better job or go to college. the better business bureau has their warning.

>> if you need a g.e.d. , you can't get it online with a few test questions and a couple hundred bucks.

>> i tried to go back and better my education and it gets thrown in my face.

>> reporter: back in wisconsin, she took and passed the real g.e.d. test.

>> you can see the whole picture.

>> reporter: today, she's in college hoping to become a pharmacy technician . the defendant is in pakistan now. the website and 800 number have been redirected to another diploma website that doesn't have any u.s. accreditation. the moral of the story, go to the real g.e.d. website to get information about how to take a real g.e.d. test in your state. it will have to be in