Where there’s a trend, there’s a scam: the Internet’s made it possible for online criminals to outright counterfeit scientific journals, letting the fake journals accept big-ticket publication fees from authors thinking they’ll make it in to a big-name journal.
Another variant on the scam involves big-name-sounding journals, sometimes using dishonest advertising, that look legit but charge far more than is reasonable and accept just about anything. Here the scientist may benefit from the ‘scam’ as well — young researchers get a fancy-looking line on their resume… at least until someone checks. Rather more hurt by the scam are researchers not looking for a quick fix, and above all those that let their names be used to promote the ventures without realizing the journals’ nature.
“Scientific publishing, meet cybercrime. Two reputable European science journals have fallen prey to identity theft by criminals who have created counterfeit journal websites. These online doppelgängers have duped hundreds of researchers into paying author fees, with the ill-won gains being funnelled to Armenia.
Editors of the victim journals first learned of the scam last year, but their attempts to put a stop to it have so far come to nothing. The crooked websites are masquerading as Archives des Sciences, a multidisciplinary journal founded in 1791 and published by the Society of Physics and Natural History of Geneva (SPHN) in Switzerland; and Wulfenia, a botany journal published by the Regional Museum of Carinthia in Klagenfurt, Austria.
The scammers attend to the closest of details, displaying on multiple websites not only the titles of the authentic journals, but also their impact factors, postal addresses and international standard serial numbers — the unique codes used to identify journals.
Editors of the authentic publications fear that the ruse has tainted the reputations of their journals.
“Victims are regularly contacting me to ask about the status of their papers: they transfer money and don’t see their papers published,” says Roland Eberwein, editor-in-chief of the authentic Wulfenia and head of the Botanic Center at the Carinthia museum, which includes a herbarium of more than 200,000 specimens.”