SCAMMERS ARE SO CLEVER
A new scam presented itself to me, and I initially fell for it. Any human activity that involves money is vulnerable, and you must be vigilant. There is an Aesop Fable written 2600 years ago of the “Fox and the Crow.” A crow high in a tree has a piece of cheese in its beak. The fox below says to the crow how much he admires the singing of the crow, upon which the crow demonstrates his singing skills. Of course, he drops the cheese into the waiting mouth of the fox. Be careful about flattery. It just may be designed to get you to drop the cheese. In my younger years, I was steeped in academia, teaching, and writing, a case report here, a book on the History of Surgery there. I wrote articles in well-known prestigious journals on various surgical subjects. Eight years ago, I wrote an article about Breast Cancer Detection. I recently got an e-mail which was very complimentary to me on my brilliant article, mentioning that they were well acquainted with my excellent work. They asked me to present my findings at the Seventh Global Insight Conference on Breast Cancer in Barcelona, Spain! And they would pay for my stay at a fancy hotel for two nights. What an honor! They are still looking at my articles and want me to present my findings.
That is really “Cool,” I thought. My wife was skeptical. “Eight years ago? You are out of date!” she said. I reread the article I had published. It was not “that” out of date, I concluded. The symposium organizers are just very perceptive! In my mind, I started to prepare my presentation as to how to make it more interesting and try to address the aspects that needed a touch of updating. Besides, I had never been to Barcelona. Even my skeptical wife started to soften. We could do a little traveling from there, go to Madrid, maybe even Paris. After all, we would be there already.
I went back and reread the e-mail. A few things seemed rather odd. The syntax didn’t quite jive. “We hope that you are good and safe.” Good and safe are not exactly the right words to use. Someone named “Paul Rutherford,” chairman of the Conference would know better. The clincher was at the end. A disclaimer statement said, “If you are not interested, please reply to us. We concern for it.” That sounded like a Google translation for something like “We respect that.” Concern and respect have sort of similar connotations in the Thesaurus, but someone who is not an English speaker wrote that because Google translated it that way.
On further research into from where the e-mail was sent, it came from innovinc.org. Innovinc, on more investigation, turns out to be an outfit that practices what is known as predatory publishing and predatory conferences. They look for publications that they can scam. They put on conferences in attractive places worldwide. They round up a bunch of unsuspecting “sucker crows” and bait them by presenting their papers. You must realize that presenting papers at international conferences is a feather in one’s cap. One of the prized gold rings in academia is getting papers accepted for publication and then presenting those papers. Not only is it prestigious, but it is existential. “Publish or Perish!” is the mantra.
Not much attention is paid to who sponsors these “international” conferences. An Innovinc conference has the same weight as a University of Barcelona sponsored one on your resume. Academia is very self-centered and has its own borderline unethical business side. These predators have evolved into a business and involve you in their scheme. Of course, there are high registration fees that have to be paid. And I suspect the hotel is in the seedy part of town and not all that fancy. There are plenty of people that would shell out a couple of thousand or more to get to present at an international symposium, and you could even write it off on your 1040. The IRS, so far, has not figured it out either.
Let the buyer beware! Question everything. Some of the red flags are the outfits that make contact you have never heard of. They flatter you with excessive complements, e-mail addresses that are strange, syntax that is not common, incorrect grammar or spelling, and of course, unreasonably high registration fees.
In the words of P.T. Barnum, “There is a sucker born every minute!”