Scam attempt: "etasr dot org" fake site and emails

2020-08-29

Oringinal announcement:
A recently launched scam site "etasr dot org" is trying to trick users (mainly via spam emails) to click on links and/or contact several "dot org" emails. This is a phishing/scam attempt. ETASR has no "dot org" site and no "dot org" email accounts. ETASR actual (and only) site is (and always was) www.etasr.com (not org or any other suffix) and our editor's email is (and always was) editor@etasr.com (not org or any other suffix). This should be obvious to all persons familiar to our journal but we also post this announcement here in order to protect people that are not that familiar with our journal until the scam site is taken down. For more information click the "Read More" link below.

We recently have been informed that someone is sending "call for papers" email for ETASR from unrelated to us email accounts (e.g.  "info at space99.online") that ask users to visit pages related to "etasr dot org" and submit papers and/or contact the editor at "editor at etasr dot org".

There is also a mention to some "Prof. Carlos White (University of Florida, USA)" and to a submission deadline for our October issue. We obviously have no knowledge of a "Prof. Carlos White (University of Florida, USA)" and we have no certain deadline for issues as we actually perform peer review and thus we can not know when the peer review process will end for each paper.

We would like to notify all that we have no "dot org" site and no "dot org" email accounts. Our site and email are all dot com (not org or any other suffix). So, avoid answering to such emails and clicking any links on them and visiting this "dot org" site in general. The scam should be obvious if your browser is able to show the actual links/emails behind the so-called etasr links, but regardless we would like to let everyone know about this.

This "dot org" site (according to a simple whois) is registered in India and was launched just a few days ago (August 12, 2020) and is obviously a scam attempt (they have also copied most of our site content in an attempt to appear legit and trick users). 

The scam should be obvious to  people familiar to our journal and also to everybody that is willing to contact a little research as this is a rather sloppy scam attempt. In any case, we are taking all the necessary steps to take this site down and hold the owners accountable, but in the mean time our first and main concern is to protect unsuspecting readers/authors. 

Again: ETASR has no "dot org" site and no "dot org" email accounts. ETASR actual (and only) site is (and always was) www.etasr.com (not org or any other suffix) and our editor's email is (and always was) editor@etasr.com (not org or any other suffix). 

UPDATE (September 5, 2020)
1. the scam site has been taken down on August 30, 2020.

2. A notification to all: journal hijacking scams are not that uncommon (see this list for example). It was even recently reported that  Scopus indexed bogus papers from such a scam journal  (see the retraction watch post about this incident here). 

3. We also had an incident some years back where somebody had downloaded a paper from our site and then edited the pdf in order to alter the bibliographical data and then uploaded it to another Elsevier based database (SSRN) that accepted it. The suggested by SSRN citation for this paper was:
Guptansi Khan, Reti and Larmjar, Panmikaj, Quick Droop Manager for Inter-tied AC-DC Cross Technique Power Distribution (February 18, 2017). Engineering, Technology & Applied Science Research - Vol. 5, No. 2, PP 2609 - 2615, 2017 and the original paper (that someone had edited in order to change the title/authors/vol/no/pages and re-printed it to pdf) was P. Gupta, P. Swarnkar, "Intertied AC-DC Hybrid System Power Sharing Through Intelligent Droop Controller", Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 2609-2615, 2018).
(Note that ETASR Vol. 5 actually ends with page 2350 so the scam should be obvious had anyone had checked).

Scam attempts are frequent on the internet and this does not exclude the academic publishing field. However, as with most scams, some common sense and basic research is usually sufficient to reveal them.

For example, in our case:

Scam give-away signs in their emails:
1. They claimed that a certain "professor" would be a guest editor. A simple google search would not find any information about this "professor" so it was rather obvious that this was a fake name. Also, there never was (or ever had been) any mention of this person in our site or at the counterfeit site.

2. Neither our actual site nor the counterfeit site had any mention of the special issue mentioned in their emails.

3. The claim of a special issue/guest editor should be alarming as it was easy to find out, by looking at our past content, that  ETASR had never published a special issue or used a guest editor.

4. They claimed that there was a specific deadline for submissions to be included in our October issue. This is a major scam sign, because if a journal actually performs peer review, there is no way of establishing such deadlines. Further, such scams usually try to lure authors with very rapid publication (e.g. acceptance in a weak or less from submission), but it is obvious that such small time-windows do not allow any kind of review.

5. Even though they claimed to have a bogus professor as a guest editor in this specific issue, they urged people to contact the journal through the "editor at etasr dot org" email. Such an email address obviously could not belong to a guest editor (what email would the regular editor have then?). And there is no logic in contacting the regular editor in order to have a paper published in a special issue that has someone else as a guest editor.

Scam give-away signs on their site:
1. ETASR is indexed in several indexing sites and databases. A simple visit to any of them would reveal the actual site of the journal.  

2. A simple google search would also reveal the actual site of the journal.

3. They "changed" the actual contact email of our editor (Dr D. Pylarinos) in their scam emails and counterfeit site to a dot org suffix. However, a simple google search would reveal the actual contact email address of Dr Pylarinos. The correct editor's email is also stated in several indexing/databases that index our journal. 

4. They "changed" the contact email of our editor in their counterfeit site to a dot org suffix but did not bother to change the secondary contact email which remained with a com suffix. So in their counterfeit site they listed two contact emails with each one having a different suffix (i.e. being related to a different site)! 

5. They copied most of our site by actually building a new OJS installation and then copy/paste the content. However, they were not able to copy specialy customized content (such as our "Online First" page) and did not download and then reupload (at their site) all the pdf files, as this would obviously take a lot of time. They simply had a link to our content (etasr.com) instead!

6. Even if they had downloaded all our pdf files and then reuploaded them at their site, we have our site address (etasr.com) in the footer of our template and in the footer of every page of every pdf file we ever published. These papers are not only available at our site (so they would have to alter each and every one of the pdf files before reuploading them to their site) but they are also submitted in several indexing/sites and databases (e.g. ZENODO) that provide a time-stamp for the uploads.

7. A simple check in any whois site would reveal that the counterfeit site was launched in August 2020 and thus could not belong to a journal that started its operation in 2011 (another whois would show that our actual site etasr.com was launched on January 2011)

This is a simple list of flaws that should make the scam attempt evident to all (even to people that were not familiar to our journal). And in fact, it did.