Say what you want about modernity, but it provides a fantastic array of opportunities for scam artists. However, some scams are easier to spot than others. For instance, the “science” behind fancy shampoos slips under our radar: I am quite certain many who use expensive shampoos actually believe that if they put their hair under a microscope they will see a series of blue and green sphere’s “hydrating” roots and repairing split ends. Meanwhile at the other end of the scale, some scams are so obviously scammy they almost define “scam” in the popular imagination. Indeed, one must have sympathy for any Nigerian prince that genuinely tries to contact their long lost family members via email.
These cases reveal the two poles of our gullibility: at one end we are scammed frequently without realizing it; at the other, we have become so accustomed to brushing aside obvious scams, particularly on the internet , that most of us think we are pretty much unscammable and become complacent. But just because we spot obvious scams, that does not mean we cannot fall victim to those well camouflaged (as fancy shampoo shows). One such well-camouflaged scam that directly targets students and prowls universities worldwide has already suckered a few at UMB, namely the Predator Press Scam.
What is the Predator Press
The Predator Press is a generic term for dubious “publishers” that prey on the vanity of students by offering to publish their theses online or in sham journals. Some even suggest a book. Like the most successful scams, and predators, they carefully select their audience – freshly minted master students – and bait them with flattering offers. First they stroke egos, then they aim at your wallets.
The Predator Press troll the internet, paying people to hunt down recently graduated students and the titles of their thesis. They then send personalised, professionally worded e-mails designed to flatter the student into believing they have been specially selected. Typically, the Predator Press claims that they’ve read the student’s thesis and found it to be of excellent quality, and (you guessed it) offer to publish it (of course) free. Meanwhile if the student looks them up, the Predator Presses usually have impressive looking Websites, which lend them a veneer of credibility.
Given that most students work for months on their thesis, the publisher’s praise must come as music to their ears. Indeed it is easy to see how a student can be seduced into ignoring their cynical instincts: This publisher [Predator Press] has hand-selected their thesis; they have a professional, corporate-looking Website; and, their offer is free and thus harmless. The trouble is that it is far from harmless.
The problem with the Predator Press is that when they publish your work, they take the rights to your work without you getting back anything meaningful in return. Instead all you get is a feeling of fleeting flattery that inevitably mutates into stupidity. They, not you, profit from putting your thesis on Amazon et al. as a print-on-demand book. However, if being on Amazon sounds impressive, consider that Amazon will publish anything. For example, Publishing, perhaps the best known member of the Predator Press, currently publishes around 10,000 “books” a month, many of them nothing more plagiarised Wikipedia pages. And in case you were wondering, if a Predator Press does happen to sell your thesis, obviously you will not see any of the money.
But most critically they can actually harm your career. A student’s thesis and their original ideas are wasted on a publishing agency that has no credibility in the academia. In academia, scholarly journals generate their credibility through a prestigious peer-review process, meanwhile the Predator Press does not even read your work. Far from offering prestige, publishing your thesis in the Predator Press will only mark you out to employers as a gullible, vain dumb-ass. Furthermore, by giving away your work to a Predator Press, you forego any future possibility of publishing their work in reputable journal. In this way, publishing in the Predator Press can sabotage future academic careers.
But that is not all: the Predator Press often seeks to exploit students directly for cash. Once a student agrees to let a given a Predator publish their work, many of them will try to persuade the student to pay for a printed copy. However, while genuine print-on-demand services offer a valuable service, usually the Predator Press charges way over the going rate.
How to recognise a Predator Press
The Predator Press sends mass e-mails phishing for your work. Although they use various tricks to convince you that you have been specially selected, you will be safe if you remember one golden rule: No reputable journal or publishing agency ever approaches Bachelor or Master students, much less reads their work that has not been formally submitted to them. Thus, if you receive an e-mail from a publishing agency asking to publish your thesis, you know it is a scam. The only action you need to take is to file it next to the e-mails you get from Nigerian princes.
Ultimately the Predator Press can offer nothing useful to students. Superbon.net in a blog on the Predator Press sums up them up succinctly: “It won’t help your career, it won’t impress hiring or postdoc committees, and it won’t get you read by your peers. Though you might get a nicely bound book.”
Below is an example of the sort of phishing e-mail the Predator Press use to lure students. (Courtesy again to Superbon whose blog on the Predator Press can be found here) This Predator Press is called Lambert, but they could be called anything, indeed VDM Publishing alone have more than 50 subsidiaries.
From: Yasmine Watson
Date: February 2, 2012 2:15:30 AM EST
Subject: Our Publication Offer: Your end-of-studies work
Dear Essam Hallak,
Some time ago I offered you the possibility of making your academic paper
entitled «Beyond Boundaries A Philosophical Mapping of the PreModern City of
the Levant» submitted to McGill University Montreal as part of your
postgraduate studies available as printed book. Our publishing company is
interested in your subject area for future publications. Since we did not
hear back from you, I am now wondering if you received my first email.
I would appreciate if you could confirm your interest in our publishing
house and I will be glad to provide you with detailed information about our
I am looking forward to receiving a positive response from you.
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
66121, Saarbrücken, Germany
Fon +49 681 3720-310
Fax +49 681 3720-3109
y.watson(at)lappublishing.com / http://www.lap-publishing.com
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10752
General unlimited partner: VDM Management GmbH
Managing directors: Thorsten Ohm (CEO), Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, Esther
What UMB requires
UMB students are required to submit their theses in UMB’s Open Access
full text archive Brage http://brage.bibsys.no/umb/?locale=en