What is a ghost certificate?

Any certificate that is shared as a reproduction rather than the certificate itself is classified as a ghost certificate. This might be as a photograph, a scanned image, included as a line on a CV, or digitally reproduced without authorization. Ghost certificates can be seen, but are difficult or sometimes impossible to verify as authentic. They have a number of downsides for both the recipient and issuer, including:

  • They are time-consuming and sometimes costly to verify
  • They carry a risk of being unverifiable
  • They can be lost easily
  • There is often little to no supporting evidence
  • They impact employability and the recruitment process
  • They offer little to no protection against fraud

Why should ghost certificates be avoided?

A recipient that earns a career-advancing certification shouldn’t have to carry the burden of verification. During the job-seeking process the inability to verify skills, knowledge, or experience can lead to lost opportunities in both employment and education. The process of authenticating a ghost certificate can involve lots of time spent making phone calls, sending emails, and trying to connect with a source of verification. Although the certificate may be valid, the issuing body may have closed, moved, lost records, or is facing closure with no offered alternative method of verification. 

For the issuer, a ghost certificate is a low barrier to fraud and can lead to spoofed or fraudulently recreated certificates. Many physical certificates can be recreated or edited digitally using photo editing software. PDF certificates - even when created as secured PDFs - can be edited without authorization using easy to obtain software. If a candidate is hired after submitting a fraudulent credential through a job application or including it on their resume, this can negatively impact the reputation of an issuer. Approximately 1 in 3 resumes contain some kind of mistruth. This includes falsified employment dates and exaggerations of previous job titles to fraudulently claimed credentials and lies about experience. 

What is the best solution to ghost certificates?

Digital credentials provide protection against unverifiable certificates through increased issuer control, security against fraud, easy shareability, reliable longevity, and one-click verification. Digital credentials ensure a recipient’s career-advancing credentials are always available and accessible, even if the issuer should close.

Issuer Control

Digital credentials remain in the control of the issuer, even once they have been issued to recipients. The issuer can set an expiration date for the certificate which updates the credential with a page banner to advise it has expired and can no longer be verified once the date has passed. The digital credential can also be revoked at any time, without having to request the recipient return their physical certificate. 

Fraud Protection

Digital credentials gain additional levels of protection using blockchain technology. Blockchain credentials are written to the blockchain on creation and become impossible to falsify, remove, or edit. If someone tries to spoof a blockchain credential, it won't be verified against the true blockchain record and can be easily identified as falsified. 


Recipients can share their digital credentials to social media in one-click, add their credentials to their LinkedIn profile, embed their credentials in their email signature and on webpages, and add their credentials to smartphone digital wallets. Any third-party that views the shared credential can click to view the dedicated credential page where they can verify the authenticity and view more information about the program and the issuer.


Digital credentials are always-available, even if expired, they can be viewed on the dedicated credential URL and won’t be removed. This provides reassurance for recipients that their career-advancing credentials are always available, even if their issuer closes. 


Recipients sometimes prefer physical certificates as a record of their achievement. Digital credentials support high quality printing with the option to add a scannable QR-code that links to the live credential page. Recipients can print their certificates at home or have them professionally printed for presentation while still having an easy method of verification. They can add their digital credentials to digital wallet cards on Android and Apple devices, allowing them to present their credentials on-the-go. 


Any third-party viewing a valid credential via the dedicated credential URL can easily verify the credential in seconds using one-click. They can also see at a glance if a credential has expired. Blockchain credentials can be verified via the live credential or manually against the record stored on the blockchain. 

In Summary

Ghost certificates are reproductions of certificates that are shared online or included in personal documents that are difficult, sometimes impossible, to verify as authentic. They can cost recipients job and education opportunities. If a ghost certificate is a spoofed or unauthorized reproduction of a credential, this can also cause harm to an issuer’s reputation. 

Don’t let your high-value credentials become ghost certificates or ghost shares. Make the switch to digital credentials and benefit from additional security, versatile issuance, and simple verification. Benefit your candidates with an enhanced recipient experience that enables them to share their digital credentials to their personal and professional networks, and easily present their credentials on-the-go.

Help your recipients achieve more with their certifications and awards and book a digital credential platform demo with our team today. 

Further Reading

Gain insights into digital credentials in our free, downloadable Digital Credentials Buyer’s Guide. The guide enables issuers to research:

  • The immediate and long-term benefits of digital credentials
  • How to encourage stakeholder buy-in with a solid business case
  • What to consider when choosing a digital credentialing solution
  • How digital credentials support high-level strategies
  • How to grow programs using digital credentials
Get the Guide