What is contract cheating?
Contract cheating is when others complete academic work for you, often for payment.
This can include:
- WhatsApp messages or adverts offering help with essays.
- Unauthorised ghostwriters or proofreaders.
- Pretending to be you during an exam or taking an online test for you.
- Buying “sample” assessments.
Contract cheating is strictly against university regulations, and it can mean severe penalties. In the UK, it’s a criminal offence to provide or advertise contract cheating services. Because of this, contract cheats often justify why using their services is OK.
Some things to watch out for:
- Offering guaranteed grades in exchange for a fee.
- Repeated messages or emails.
- Offering essays as “models” or “for inspiration”.
- Reassurance without specific details - for example, essays are written by “handpicked UK writers” “from a top University” (they’re probably not).
- Assurance that the work produced is plagiarism-free or custom-written (it probably isn’t).
- Promising to keep services “confidential”.
- Pretending to support struggling students with writing help.
The blackmail dilemma
Because contract cheating is illegal and against university regulations, contract cheating services blackmail students by threatening to report them to the university or with fake legal letters if they don't pay more money or if they complain.
Contract cheats include “easter eggs” in work which allows them to prove that they have written it. These can be very difficult to find.
Threats can follow students if they change universities, or even into professional careers, and put them in a very vulnerable position.
If you escape blackmail there are still risks. For example, contract cheats may sell your personal information. Once you’ve accepted help for one assessment, you may feel that you need to use it again to stop being found out.
Cheating in assessments can cause you to be invited to a professional suitability panel as well as an academic misconduct meeting.
How to protect yourself from contract cheats
Ignore unsolicited messages
If you receive unsolicited messages on platforms like WhatsApp from individuals or services offering to complete your assignments, block and report them so you're not tempted to use them if you’re struggling.
Report suspected contract cheating
If you receive an advert from a contract cheat or you think someone is using contract cheating, report it. Universities take these reports seriously and can provide support and advice.
Coventry University's dedicated email for reporting - firstname.lastname@example.org
Use university help
If you're struggling, reach out for help to the support services below:
- Your registry team: think about applying for an extension or a deferral if you are struggling because of illness, accidents or another serious personal problem
- The centre for academic writing
- Academic staff: Consult your tutor or module leader for advice on addressing the assignment brief
- Your Students' Union Advice Service: Free, confidential and impartial advice.