TikTok and Instagram told to stop scammers selling fake exam papers

‘Highly unlikely’ that real papers are being leaked online, but students can still be penalised even if they try to buy fake papers.
PA Wire

Social media companies such as TikTok and Instagram must crack down on scammers selling fake GCSE and A-level papers to students, exam boards have warned.

It comes after a BBC investigation found dozens of accounts claiming to have access to this year’s exam papers, with some charging hundreds of pounds.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents the UK’s eight largest exam boards, says it is highly unlikely real papers are being leaked online.

But England’s exam regulator Ofqual says if students try to cheat, they could lose the qualification they have been studying for, even if the papers they try to buy are fake.

The JCQ wants exam boards to be given direct access to enforcement teams at social media sites, to ensure accounts are shut down more quickly and to prevent students from being conned.

Currently teams of analysts at exam boards scour social media sites to look for scammers and report any fraudulent accounts, but they can only report the incidents in the same way as any other social media user.

Some of the accounts often remain active for several days after they have been reported.

TikTok and Instagram have said they do not allow the sale of exam papers on their platforms.

But students at The Commonweal School in Swindon told the BBC fraudulent accounts can be found with “a simple search”.

Head teacher Chas Drew said his school is taking a proactive approach in tackling the issue, and is showing students the scam accounts in the run up to exams so they know what to look out for.

“Anything we can do together with social platforms is absolutely crucial,” said JCQ chief executive Margaret Farragher.

A spokesperson for Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has said it does not allow exams or answer sheets to be sold on its platform and removes any accounts that are flagged.

TikTok has said it removes any content that tries to defraud or scam members and urged users to report any accounts claiming to sell exam papers.

Meanwhile, the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) said “a very small number of students” have accessed some of its exam papers after they were shared online.

A spokesperson admitted there have been instances of time zone cheating, where students who have completed their exams in certain countries share information with others yet to sit them.

However, the IBO said there was “no evidence of widespread cheating”.