At first glance, Axact’s universities and high schools are linked only by superficial similarities: slick websites, toll-free American contact numbers and calculatedly familiar-sounding names, like Barkley, Columbiana and Mount Lincoln.
But other clues signal common ownership. Many sites link to the same fictitious accreditation bodies and have identical graphics, such as a floating green window with an image of a headset-wearing woman who invites customers to chat.
There are technical commonalities, too: identical blocks of customized coding, and the fact that a vast majority route their traffic through two computer servers run by companies registered in Cyprus and Latvia.
Five former employees confirmed many of these sites as in-house creations of Axact, where executives treat the online schools as lucrative brands to be meticulously created and forcefully marketed, frequently through deception.