Possible scam involving academic publishing?

There was a post earlier today in Scholarly Open Access, cautioning academics against a publisher who seems so keen to recruit authors and editors that they offer rewards of “1,000-10,000 dollars as remuneration for each article according to its quality”. Such promises are so ludicrous that they would not normally require refuting, but in the interest of protecting the more trusting among us, let me be crystal-clear: You will never get a fee for publishing in an academic journal. Increasingly, academic publishing is becoming a ‘you-pay-them’ model, and it is certainly not ‘they-pay-you’. Academic journals purporting to pay contributors handsomely are most likely seeking to exploit the gullibility of inexperienced, or desperate, researchers.

If the above has not deterred you from doing business with such journals, or if their promises for paying editors up to 2,000 dollars per month (!) seem too enticing, here’s another story to consider. In this blog post, Dave Bricker, a publishing consultant, narrates how he was contacted by someone who wished to engage his professional services, and offered to pay “a high price with­out ques­tions or negotiation”. Bricker astutely realised that he was the target of an advance fee scam. Here’s how the scam works, in Bricker’s words: First, “the oper­a­tor sends a fake check—one that looks authentic. You deposit that check and it clears quickly.” Following that, the fraudster may request a small refund under some pretext (e.g., local taxes, administrative fees, etc.) “With cash in hand, what do you have to lose? You send the oper­a­tor his ‘refund’ (less your generous compensation) and move on with your life. Weeks later, the bank detects the fraud and pulls the money out of your account. You’re officially hosed.”

Traditionally, advance fee scams involve fanciful stories about deposed Nigerian dignitaries, wealthy widows on their deathbeds and the like. However, Bricker’s post is evidence that scammers will sometimes approach potential victims using legitimate business pretexts, and this is why excess generosity by any academic publisher should be treated with extreme caution.

I hasten to clarify that nothing in the preceding paragraphs should not be construed as a suggestion that the specific publishing company flagged in Scholarly Open Access is a front for an advance fraud scheme. However, given the prevalence of such activity on the internet, prospective authors and journal editors would do well to be very vigilant. If the offer looks too good to be true, as the adage goes, it probably isn’t.

Featured Image: “Danger” by Shawn Carpenter @ Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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