Email invitation to be a “special” speaker, a scam?

Have you ever received an e-mail from some small conference telling you that they want to invite you to give a talk as a special speaker, honorary speaker or distinguished speaker? I received several e-mails like this and while something it is some valuable invitation, most of the time is just spam. In this blog post, I will discuss this.

Several small conference organizers send unsollicited e-mails to try to attract papers for their conferences and ultimately to collect money in the form of registration fees. As many people ignore these e-mails, some strategies that they use is to mention the title of one of your recent paper and to invite you as a special speaker. This is an example:


Please accept my apology if this email bothers you, as I have tried to send you this invitation in last months but without any response from you.

On behalf of the Organizing Committee, it is our delight to extend to NAME_OF_CONFERENCEwhich is going to be held during 2021 (next year) in CITY, Japan.It is our great pleasure and privilege to welcome you to join the NAME_OF_CONFERENCE act as the chair/speaker while presenting about TITLE OF_MY_PAPER.

Another example:

Dear Dr. XXXXX,

Hope you receive this letter in a wonderful mood. Please accept my apology if this email bothers you, as I have tried to send you this invitation to you but without any response. Would you please send a reply?

Thanks for your time to this email from our committee, the committee of XXXXXX-2022 cordially welcome you to share a presentation as a session speaker/chair regarding your research. Sincerely wish you can give us an opportunity to include your research in our program and proceeding.

If you read such e-mails for the first time, you may think that the sender has read your paper and is really interested in your research and wants to invite you as a special guest to their conference to give a talk. So you may be tempted to accept. However, most of the time, this is just SPAM and they only mention the title of one of your paper and that you are invited as a special speaker to catch your attention.

Before accepting such invitation, you should check: (1) is this a well-known conference in your field that has been held for several years? (2) do you know other people having attended it? (3) is it associated with a famous institutions or publisher (beware that the website may be fake and provide misleading information, though). But perhaps the most important is to check if the conference organizers will be asking you to pay a registration fee or give you some special benefits. The reason is that as an invited guest, you would expect some kind of preferential treatment over regular attendees. If they do not give you any special benefits as a special speaker, then you are just another speaker for their conference, and the goal is just to earn money. If you are not sure about whether a conference is legit or not, it is best also to ask your supervisor or senior researchers for their opinion.

There are also many other types of SPAM e-mails that target academic researchers such as e-mails asking you to publish your thesis as a book. I may talk about this in more details in a future blog post! That is all for today!

Philippe Fournier-Viger is a full professor working in China and founder of the SPMF open source data mining software.

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