Internet and email brought us global communication, with time difference being the only thing to worry about if you want to say something to someone in a far-off corner of the world. Unfortunately, it also provides almost unlimited posibilities to rip people off. Most of these attempts are pretty obvious, including bizar stories like “I am the bastard son of the king of Farfaraway and I want you to help me inherit my fathers fortune” or “Hi we are your bank/ICT department/email provider/…, our main computer exploded so please fill out all your visa details/password/user name/… so we can verify your account”. Yeah, right.
But have you ever heard of a scamference? Corporate science and the pressure to publish seems to have attracted the attention of some more sophisticated internetcriminality. Scientists are send a well writen email inviting them to an international conference in their research field, complete with actual research topics that will be discussed, a professional looking conference website and a personal invitation to submit a paper. If the invitation is accepted, a notification of the paper’s acceptance is sent and the author is asked to pay a standard subsciption fee. All seems perfectly normal and very convincing, until people arrive on the venue, only to find that the conference never existed.
If you have been around the scientific community for some years, you will be able to spot the trap: the typical organisations active in the research field don’t mention the conference, the letter is not signed by a famous scientist but by something like “the chairman of the scientific committee” and the timing is off (e.g. invites to submit abstracts in april when the conference is already in august). Also, these Scamferences all seem to ‘be organised’ in Toronto, Canada.
Luckily, scientists are ‘researchers’ by nature and only believe something if it has proper references. Nevertheless, it is advised not to use an ‘out of office’-reply when you’re travelling. As this service answers all email, it will tell the swindlers that your email adress is currently in use.