I just realized this sounds like the beginning of a science fiction novel or an Edgar Allan Poe story. Resemblance aside, the world of predatory journals and publishing companies, is not one that I knew until I started sleuthing. (Note: some of the terms I use are based on prior knowledge regarding the publication process. If you are unfamiliar, read about it here).
WHAT ARE THEY?
(Potentially) fake/misleading/predatory journals or publishers can range from ones that are a little too ambiguous (e.g. lack of transparency about their editorial board or process) to ones that hold a manuscript "hostage" and demand/charge money for publication. Some journals and publishers might also encourage you to pay a small "fee" or "investment" as part of the review process. In learning more about this, I have decided that for future, rare occasions of submission solicitation, I'll likely do a quick background search.
HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT?
There are several sites that you can look up if a journal or publishing company seems... a little off. A bulk of this work is from Jeffrey Beall, who is an American librarian and library scientist. Based on his work, here are some sites where you can search:
If you aren't able to scoop anything from the resources above, I recommend asking your mentors and peers (and maybe you should do that first anyways). During my own process, I looked for information about editorial boards, institutional affiliations, searched on these sites, and also looked on Twitter. Based on what you find, if you do think something is suspicious, I would add the tip and contact the above sites too so that they can update their databases.
Hopefully this doesn't detract you from publishing, but instead provides a cautionary tale. (Excuse me for my literary flairs). And if you are curious about Beall's journey, I would highly recommend reading his first-person account that explained how he compiled the list and also the ways different publishers tried to get off these lists. You can access it here.
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