Meet Erkan Sutculer and Yuliz Obergfell, a Turkish couple living in Switzerland who have launched a series of dubious, unaccredited and apparently outright bogus scam websites granting certificates for everything from Scrum Master to Six Sigma and, of course, ISO 9001. One of their alleged “companies,” called Skillfront, brazenly promises guaranteed ISO 9001 certification, and of course, they write your quality manual for your beforehand.
As is usual for certificate mills, Skillfront claims “compliance” with a host of accreditation standards, like ISO 17024 and ISO 17011, but isn’t actually accredited to any of them. They then claim to be “independent,” when in fact they are quite the opposite of that. They literally certify their own template documents.
What’s worse is that they are selling ISO 27001 certificates for cybersecurity systems, all but guaranteeing that their clients will eventually be victimized by hackers who they find out their “information security management system” was entirely fake.
The ISO 9001 services are particularly egregious. Sutculer and Obergfell openly admit they will write your Quality Manual and then issue a certificate a few days later, all for the low price of $US 497. Naturally, you have to go through this every year to “maintain” it.
Sutculer and Obergfell are a married couple from Turkey, but do appear to be living in Switzerland. On the Skillfront website, Obergfell is presented as the brain behind the endeavor, and wrote: “I started the idea of SkillFront in 2011 with zero knowledge of marketing, sales, persuasion, closing, e-commerce, or automated digital marketing systems.” Oh, that part is clear.
Their residency status allows them to falsely market their services as “Swiss.” Because marketing yourself as “Turkish” is apparently something you should be ashamed of?
In keeping with the usual certificate mill psychoses, Sutculer and Obergfell use a host of fake press release claims to prop up their egos. The Skillfront website includes “quotes” from reporters with Bloomberg, Yahoo News, The Guardian, and Forbes, except that none of these reporters actually exist:
And, of course, you can’t have a certificate mill without batshit-crazy claims of sales volume. Skillfront claims to have issued nearly half a million certificates despite the fact that no one has ever heard of them:
The bulk of their personnel certifications appear to be going to third-world victims in Africa and Asia, who — because of language issues — likely cannot investigate their false claims easily, and are more likely to be duped.
Finally, they make impossible claims about their corporate “partners, affiliate, and sponsors.” Skillfront claims to have Bluehost, Namecheap, Shopify, Leadpages, and other companies as their “partners.” I contacted a number of the companies’ legal departments, and they had never heard of Skillfront. Instead, it appears that Sutculer and Obergfell think that by using Bluehost to host their website, then using Namecheap to obtain their domain name, that allows them to claim the companies as “partners.” That’s not quite how it works.
It’s astonishing just how similar all certificate mills are, and how they appear to have no limits to the lies they will publish in order to sell stuff that retails for a few hundred dollars.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.