This is what happens if you buy a scam dissertation

A few notes from NW: This post is not satirical or embellished. This is a real interaction. I've tried to provide just about every single piece of interaction between me and Antony, minus maybe two emails total and a missed phone call (seriously, an international phone call). Also, as many will understand if they actually read it, I am not interested in solicitations for dissertation help. The prompts are absurd for a reason. And my line of research is not related to film at all. Any emails related to dissertation services or help will be considered unsolicited spam.
July 2015: Wow, this has got a lot of views! Sadly, Antony deleted his Twitter account, relegating many of the conversations we once had to the abyss. The original version has been saved on archive.org, but sadly the embedded tweets are not archived. I've reformatted and edited this post due to the lack of media in some areas. 

Early on November 29th, the amazing (and post-dissertation) @DNLee5 was sent an offer:

Of course, this is clearly a scam. There are websites and services who do in fact write dissertations, theses, term papers. I've seen sites who even write grant proposals, sell access to previously awarded grants, homework packages for courses... If you want academic content, you can get it. I have never been proposed to have my dissertation written for me -- or I suppose, one degree away from a proposal. It seems as those Dr. Lee wanted to see where this would go -- as would I -- but since she has much better things to do than indulge a scam for funsies, I asked if I could take the reins. 

And so I began my journey with Antony, my dissertation spirit guide. His claims were fairly convincing (read: hilariously not convincing): he can write a dissertation in a day (but sometimes two days, or a week); he can write pretty much anything, as all of these academic buzzwords for "big important paper" indicate; and even though psychology is misspelled, he can even do English papers or science papers! He apparently has a team working with him to churn out these papers. And they are supposedly low cost.

So I said let's jump down the rabbit hole...

Chapter One: Contact

I've seen (and have had troll-worthy fun) with scammers before. They are not the brightest bunch -- even those writing Ph.D quality work from scratch. As you can see here, Antony has a fairly tough time copying and pasting my email address:


It may have very well ended there. Over 20 minutes of problems trying to copy and paste. But this is for science. And I love all of you. So I gave in and asked for his email.

After I initiated an email, he replied with a stock email of his own.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.25.31 AM

You can access Antony's attached writing samples here.

I replied:

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.25.41 AM

You may be wondering what the hell is Theatrical Biology?!? and we head to Twitter for that answer:

I saw Prometheus and hadn't seen any of the other Alien movies before. I thought this would be interesting since the last time something like this occurred, my friend Ari had never seen any of the Star Wars movies and suggested we binge watch from Episode I through Episode VI. Her then-boyfriend quite literally screamed out "NOOOOOO". I felt like after I watched Prometheus and told people I haven't seen any of the Aliens, I would also create such a reaction. I didn't want to see any Alien movies after Prometheus. Alien fans (and general movie fans) would know why if they have seen Prometheus.

The only thing I can remember from The Butterfly Effect (spoiler alert) is when Ashton is sitting in his wheelchair with his arm blown off and has this sort of blue hue to his face. The entire time, I was thinking "why is he blue?" I also saw the director's cut instead, which includes the ending where Ashton's character kills himself. When I told people "Man, that ending was crazy" they were like "Yeah, so sad..." and I was like "I mean, realizing you have to KILL yourself is insane!" then their jaw drops and then I say "Oops? Different ending for the director's cut?" Oops.

But I liked it 🙁

I saw Mamma Mia with my mother when it was a play. I grew up listening to ABBA, which sort of explains a lot of things to some of my regular followers and readers. Particularly my love for explaining that Sweden's #1 export was ABBA, who made a considerable amount of money for the country during their peak. Turns out, that was a complete lie. Sorry.

When I was about 12, I was trying to relearn the piano (I was forced to play when I was very young). All I knew was where "middle C" was. I figured out the white keys were "whole letters" and the black keys were "flats/sharps". The only sheet music I had available was Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" the blockbuster single to the blockbuster movie, Titanic.

I would go to friend's homes and sit at their pianos and play this song. I soon didn't have friends. And now I don't play piano anymore.

I never saw Avatar. But I do know it's a long movie. A long sucky movie. I also asked:

I also asked:

Don't get me started on this myth. I've already pleaded my case.


This is coming off of the heels of Nobel laureate James Watson's news splash that he is auctioning off his Nobel prize for stealing discovering the double helix. Watson believed IQ and race were linked, where "the people of Africa" had lower IQs.

And so, with my wonderful late night and somewhat insomniac tweeps, I was able to propose my topics of Theatrical Biology to my dissertation spirit guide, Antony: Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.26.02 AM

A few things to note here:

  1. Antony charges $30 a page (the full email can be found in PDF here or at the bottom of the post)
  2. He prefers to watch Titanic and Avatar over Mamma Mia, Natural Born Killers, The Butterfly Effect, and Prometheus.
  3. Titanic + Avatar = 356 minutes of pain
  4. I suppose the 10% myth and the race + intelligence myth are both child's play for Antony

I end up bartering down to $15 to see an abstract first, then I would send $30 per page for the rest of the document.

Chapter 2: Dirty Work

I really was not expecting much of anything from Antony. But Antony is a big-picture guy. He asked me how many pages this would be. I said "no page limit" so he said "How about 50 pages?"

Yep. 50-page dissertation sounds about right, wouldn't you say? Give or take 200 pages. But it's in the ball park!

At the rate of $30/page, Antony is looking to squeeze me for $1500.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 3.16.42 AM

I believe that $15 to experience a handful of words could be both interesting and also amazingly hilarious.

However, I felt a bit guilty since this is 100% lost and basically useless money to a scam artist. So I decided to also donate $15 to this project.

Please, think about donating $15 (or any amount) to Mrs. Rhodes' 3rd - 5th grade science students!

Update: Mrs. Rhodes' class has been funded. I have listed a few more projects at the bottom of the post!

If we calculate this correctly:

  • Both Titanic and Avatar would take about 6 hours to watch
  • If you deducted the time to roll the credits and the first 30 minutes of each movie (come on, I know you've jumped in 30 minutes late into a movie and still figured out what was happening), we still have a little over 4 hours of movie to watch.
  • Antony can turn an abstract -- which is a condensed version of my supposed 50-page dissertation -- in 3 hours.
  • In effect, he some how can gain an hour of time plus the time it takes to write the abstract.
  • The only logical reason he can do this: Antony is a time traveler.

Since I am working with a time traveler, I think $15 for 3 hours of work (aka $5/hr) is pretty good. I mean, I should have asked for lotto numbers.

Oh wait, I live in Utah and it doesn't have a lottery.

Oh wait, Antony is a scam artist and not a time traveler.

Right.

Flash forward three hours later (about 3am for me):

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.37.08 PM

But how could I exercise patience, Antony?? HOW? You are about to write a piece on the biological correlates of male and female differences using Avatar and Titanic as your cases! HOW COULD I WAIT?

Five hours. Okay. Breathe. Try to sleep. Wake up and...

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.35.57 PM

And then, there was laughter. (Click here for the *.docx)

Abstract

Science does not limit the difference between the male and female species of animals in terms of the physiological disparities of their body, but rather the social responsibilities they pursue in the society. Scientific dispositions admit that other than the obviously glaring discrepancies in the sense of body physiology men and women ‘occupy’ certain traits in terms of responsibility set them apart. Social science for instance, has invariably explained the difference between men and women within the light of their social obligations and personality traits. Arts, especially the theatres, have thrived on the element of gender roles to outline the two swings of the gender pendulum. The plots of avatar and Titanic have consummately outlined the significant differentiation of gender roles in the society as a factor of demarcating between the male and the female progeny. Cameron has used Grace, Trudy, and Neytiri to express the general ‘feeling’ of the work towards gender differences. In Avatar, there is very little differentiation between the two genders in terms of roles and responsibilities. The work completely ignores the conventional feminine stereotyping but chooses to tether the understanding about the gender differences towards the aspect of ‘equality’ and affirmative action. This is in stark contrast to Titanic that clearly outlines the difference between the responsibilities of men and women. An in-depth analysis of these works reveals a practical case of juxtaposition that symbolically leaves the audience brainstorming as to the position of the woman in the society. With the analysis of these works, it is expected that the glaring personality differences will be illuminated.

I laughed for 15 minutes straight before showing it to anyone. I sort of lost it around Cameron has used Grace, Trusy, and Neytiri... and started to think No one is going to believe this. I just spent $15 on a joke.

But it was real. It happened. Not exactly to my specifications -- I was looking forward to more biological differences -- but in terms of a film analysis and societal implications, this wasn't too far off what you would expect from an undergraduate paper.

And then I thought How many people have used this in my class? and it got less funny. It is not copy-paste stuff. At least from what I could see.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 2.56.22 PM

And that makes sense -- there are still minor misspelling errors and grammatical faults within this abstract. This was written by someone within 12 hours of time. Someone who charges $30/page. Someone who is morally bankrupt. My dissertation spirit guide.

At this point, I decided to throw in the towel. But Antony, like many scammers, do not take "No" for an answer.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.47.31 PM

After some back and forth, we came to this conclusion:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.47.47 PM

And I didn't hear from him for an entire day. And half of me thought I was never going to hear from him again. But the other half...

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.54.31 PM

At this point, I wasn't jumping for joy and laughing. I'm dealing with an academic scammer. I don't know how different this interaction is with predatory journals, but I could imagine a situation where it is just too good to be true. In this case, it was no where near good:

Click here for the *.docx for this abstract
[Emphasis is mine, everything else is Antony]

Theatrical media has been widely used in pursuit of possible answers to scientific questions. In the search of answers, it has raised more pertinent issues that are apposite to the scientific studies. By using such avenues to delve into what is widely considered mythical, there is an intrigue in fusion of totally distinct, different genres, and philosophies that answer questions that neither of the two would have (Chudler, 2006).

There is a widely held belief that the use of only 10% of the human brain is an urban legend. However, there are scientific suggestions that increase in harness of the unused brain power will lead to an increase of intelligence (Beyerstein, 1999). This is known as the reserve energy theories that are accredited to Boris Sidis and William James who were psychologists from Harvard in the 1890s. There are experiments that have been carried out to ascertain this but they have not yielded much on the possibility of the activation of the unused brain matter (Kalat, 1998).

The failure by the scientist to develop means of interrogating the limits of the brain when used without reservations, has led to researches by film makers that have captured the possibilities in theatrical media. The creators of films like Prometheus, The Butterfly Effect, and Natural Born Killers have delved into the depth of the possibilities of using the entire human brain. The films have achieved what scientific studies cannot albeit remotely reliable due to their relatively speculative scope of work. But based on such speculation, questions are raised on the unreserved ability of human beings.

Keywords: Human brain, theatrical media

In light of this, this paper seeks to Show proof that we only use 10% of our brain based on an interrogation of characters and traits from the films Prometheus, The Butterfly Effect, and Natural Born Killers.

And there you have it. Biological proof we use 10% of our brain using interrogations of characters from Prometheus, The Butterfly Effect, and Natural Born Killers. I would love to see Alien, Ashton Kutcher, and Woody Harrelson just hanging out in character in a room with a single light bulb dangling over a table while Antony is trying to prove they are only using 10% of their brain. I would absolutely love that.

And for the last time. I pass on Antony's services.

Chapter Three: Catch Me If You Can

There are a lot of red flags with Antony's initial claims. First off, Antony Gitonga (or Antony Gitongah, if you use his Twitter spelling) doesn't exist. In fact, his "real" name came up on PayPal when I paid

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 3.52.00 AM

Antony Ndungu, or Antony Ndung'u, is a relatively common name. A quick search found me 4 different Antony/Anthony/Tony Ndung'u/Ndungu profiles across various social media. Including a search term for "Nairobi University" (which actually doesn't exist) came up with some Anthony Ndungu's from Nairobi, but none who attended University of Nairobi's masters program -- much less, none who attended Nairobi University's masters program (because it doesn't exist).

Searching Antony's email address was a bit more fruitful. His Facebook profile contains groups he has joined -- most related to dissertations and dissertation help. He supposedly is hiring writers with a fixed pay of $300. And also does the majority of his recruiting and preying on Twitter (update: Antony has deleted his Twitter, but may possibly be under a different name).

A 250-page dissertation would cost $7500 from Antony. The title "Your Name, Ph.D" could be worth $7500 to some. That's what it's worth to Antony.

But the bulk of Antony's clients are most likely not sociopathic title-hunters. Most likely, he is providing services to undergraduates who are trapped in writing-heavy courses who wish to opt out of all work within the course. If the cost is $500 to have all A's in a course, that's a sliver of a student loan payout.

Chapter Four: Pay It Forward

Rather than continuing to shun the morally bankrupt, I would rather focus on influencing the next generation of scientists. Please join me in focusing your efforts towards Mrs. Rhodes' 3rd - 5th grade science students. Science has taught me the benefits in the long term are set up by a lot of initial hard work -- which essentially would save many from having to fall for people like Antony.

UPDATE: Mrs. Rhodes' class has been funded! Here are a few more pages. Please think of donating $15 to any of these projects.

Road to Literacy: Class needs reams of paper. 
Reading Success: Class needs take-home book bags.
Engaging Learners Through Technology: Class needs Chromebooks for STEM projects.

If you found this post funny, interesting, and/or intriguing, I hope you would also believe this was worth $15 for me to investigate and for you to read about. We can't stop all Antony's by tomorrow, but we can certainly slow them down.

The entire email interaction with Antony. (The last email with the abstract was sent in a different thread -- the screenshot with the abstracts attached were the last emails).

31 thoughts on “This is what happens if you buy a scam dissertation”

  1. they call me AMJ (@AmandaMichelle) says:

    This is fantastic work. I'm thinking high school teachers & profs of college freshman writing seminars should share this with their students. Such fun pulling this together with you!

  2. daniellelee says:

    Although, I am mightily impressed with that Abstract. That was some damn fine boolsheetery

    1. lucasgallindo says:

      If I saw that abstract (with revised grammar) in a post-modernism periodical, I would bevieve it was serious research. Or, at least, research that the author think it is serious. Or research a more classical scientist wants uses to troll post-modernists.

      I'm impressed.

  3. Calvin Omondi says:

    What you have done is to hype a case of misunderstanding. Of course there are glaring cases where the writer has wronged you but you are a well organized alarmist. In my career as a writer, whenever i do not capture the wishes of the client, he ensures that more information is provided so that i capture his desires in the work. Interestingly, you chose to rush online to label him a con despite the very good opportunities you had to edit your abstract. Some of your the response to these posts regarding the abstract are encouraging. If you could guide the writer and steer him towards your desired paper, am sure you will be working well. I blame the writer for taking long but to label him a con artist is appalling. Am speaking with authority as a seasoned writer who feels your actions were in bad taste. How do you gauge someone with some strange e mail address they are not accustomed to? my own supervisor professor of statistics misspell his names in every forum yet he is a serious consultant in monitoring and evaluation. These things are written in bad faith, if you claim to be a liberal intelligentsia, sort your issues with the writer amicably, it only makes sense that way

    1. Nick Wan says:

      "Liberal intelligentsia" hahaha, what? What does that even have to do with anything here!?

      I have presented nothing incorrect. This is absolutely what happened: he stalked out the word "dissertation" to prey upon people who want to pay for "dissertation help" in the form of $30/written and formatted pages. He wanted an up-front $750 deposit. There is no written contract. In fact, the "abstract" written isn't even an abstract, just a proposal of what he might have written.

      This is a scam. A scam exists when fraud exists. In this case, this is academic fraud. This is a representation of work that is not done by the person whose name will be on the paper. That is against all academic policies across the world. A business set up based upon fraud is a scam.

      1. Alex says:

        Very interesting research.

        Here's what i think about it. This guy is not a scam - scammers just take your money and disappear, he at least tried to do some work. Looks like he was interested in building long-term relationship too, otherwise he wouldn't come back with the second piece of work. Life is tough in Africa, poor guy just trying to make his living, providing services, that seem legit from his point of view. Think about it as an outsource business.

        Using this work for your dissertation would be academic fraud on your side, but for him writing it - it's OK, that's his business. Obviously it's one of those gray areas businesses, so I can understand why he wants to keep his real name, country and university in secret. But who cares, people, who will use his services care only if it's good. Still not ethical to use someone else's work for your dissertation imho.

  4. reporter11 says:

    There is a Nairobi University, Master Program in Kenya, get your facts rights. Also there are more a million people called Antony Gitongah, just because he share his names with so many others doesn't make him a con artist. I think you just wanted to promote your own agendas by tarnishing someone else work.

    1. Nick Wan says:

      Unfortunately for you, there is not a Nairobi University. It is called University of Nairobi.

      An example: People who attend Harvard University know it as Harvard University and not University of Harvard. In fact, saying "University of Harvard" would be extremely suspicious.

      Another example: University of Nairobi goes by University of Nairobi or UoN. It does not go by Nairobi University in any fashion. If you do a search for "University of Nairobi" you will find about 4 million results. If you search for "Nairobi University" you will find about 300,000 results -- with the majority of results pulling up University of Nairobi links.

      There is only one agenda to promote here: I hate academic dishonesty and if you are an academic or have students, you will too.

      1. The Essay Experts (@TheEssayxperts) says:

        Despite your allegations being true, University of Nairobi is widely referred to as Nairobi University. Google does not know everything. Anyway, I found it absurd that you parted away with $15.00 for the abstract. I normally do it for free and let the client gauge my skills.

        The majority of writers have "slave writers" and we intrinsically monitor the quality of work they produce. We also have return clients paying in excess of $60 per page. Everything is build through trust. Posting his **s online is not the way to go. Though I find it hilarious that he was not able to figure out what [at] stood for.

  5. JoJo says:

    So what is your Point here, I'm a writer and it doesn't make sense to me, I mean it's nonsense

    1. Nick Wan says:

      My favorite part about the last three comments are that they are all from the same IP location.

  6. M says:

    Shoot yourself then

    1. Nick Wan says:

      Maybe I'll just graduate honestly. No guns needed for that.

  7. daggy says:

    I hope the Antony Gitonga pictured isnt the one you are telling us. I know him as a reknown writer who has done some great works in the subjects he mentioned above. The proplem here lies with you. you should know people. dont tarniush gitonga's name in the name of plagiarist. point of correction, there is no Nairobi University anywhere in the world; instead we have University of Nairobi. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT.

  8. Ramon Kariuki Jr. says:

    So what's your point? We are ready, available and will continue to write dissertations for your RICH but LAZY students. I can just smell money coming from your students!!! MONEY COME MONEY COME!!! Publish millions of such posts but MONEY will still COME

  9. Gitonga says:

    Nick you are very silly, how many times did i ask you to type your email in full? I`m positive at the end of the week many more students will come calling. I`m benefiting from your post. F.Y.I. It`s very interesting. let everyone rt!

  10. dinahere says:

    This was hilariously sad. Undergrads stop falling for these academic frauds and just stock up on red bull+coffee and write through the night.

  11. Matthew (@MCeeP) says:

    Great piece, so much fun to read. It's really intresting to get a little insight in scam dissertation world.

    But I have to confess that as much as I loved you piece the hilarious attempt at commenting by said scammers *waves* made me laugh even harder.

  12. becca says:

    That is... pretty awful. Or hilarious. Or both. I can't decide.

    I will say, if the abstracts just referenced Socrates a little more, it could pass for the kind of stuff we came up with for parliamentary debate.

  13. John Hilton says:

    Really fun and useful post but maybe caution with your assertion about university names. Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and many other universities here in England are widely referred to as X University even though the formal name is 'University of X'

  14. John Mashey says:

    Although in a different field, academic scams, this follows well-established methodoology by scamorama and similar efforts by others.

  15. aceil says:

    How is that different from including suggested paragraphs by reviewers in peer review articles? Don't authors do that all the time? After a 5 rounds of rejections and comments by reviewers the final draft does not represent the work of the researcher, nor does it give due credit to reviewers. Why is such a practice allowed in Scientific publishing? Because some high ranking administrators allow it?

    1. Nick Wan says:

      This sounds like an exaggeration, but I might not have as much experience with reviewers as you. In my personal experience, many of the final drafts I've been a part of has been just about all the researcher's work.

      You are right in the fact that scientists pay to publish (not what you said, but maybe what you were insinuating). But scientists don't pay for complete articles to be written for them. If that were the case, there would be no rejection in journals. We would merely have to pay a fee, submit our data, and have some person at the journal write it for us.

      I'm not exactly sure where your comment comes from -- the post isn't about scientific publishing, it's more about academic dishonesty and a look into what that service is like. I'm not sure if you're trying to argue about the peer review process or about "high ranking administrator" elitism or what...

  16. Ben Fulton says:

    Meh. A scam would be if he took your money and didn't deliver any product. You paid for and got exactly what you asked for - and with completely original work too! If you choose to submit it under your own name, that's on you, not Antony.

    1. Nick Wan says:

      You're right, Ben. I was actually expecting no delivery -- or if it were delivered, I was expecting a heavy dose of plagiarism. And I don't think that expectation is too far off from what many people think when they hear some person can flip a dissertation in a day or so. Generally, if a service is too good to be true, it's a red flag -- a scam (as you've defined it) or a misrepresentation of what the service actually is.

      In this case, it was delivered. So it wasn't actually a scam in the sense of the service (even though the content of the first draft wasn't what I specified, and he wanted a $750 deposit immediately). Of course, if I were actually going to shell out $7500 for a 250-page dissertation, this process wouldn't have lasted two days as it did for a page-worth of words. The process would have lasted some weeks or months, most likely (if at all).

      The point of the post, however, wasn't trying to define the word "scam". The point was to look into a service that is readily available to anyone who wants to dive into the world of academic dishonesty. And, as you read, it's not hard. You figure a portion of a student loan would cover a full 250-page dissertation, formatted and with citations... the fact that the scam wasn't a scam is actually more scary, in my opinion.

    2. Gitongah says:

      @Ben thanks for telling him the truth, it is not scam. He got what he wanted. Ben I look forward to hearing from u soon.

  17. aceil says:

    Awaiting answers for the question of how his services are different from authors paying publishers, or authors using editorial services, or honorary( phantom, guest....) authorship, ghost authors and (you name more....) in published research .
    Actually, having read his abstract I might use his service to edit my upcoming book "Fraud in Higher Education"

  18. Jegar says:

    I love that there's people defending this type of thing in the comment thread. It turns out from this story that Antony is not the scammer here, but the students hiring his company. In most countries Antony's business is still grey area though, because the implication of charging $30 a page is that the work will be enough to not get caught. I think the equivalent is people selling those stickers that stop your licence plate getting photographed so you can speed with impunity.

    Either way, any student that could afford these services is probably coming from that class of family where you get a degree for show before inheriting daddy's business so I don't really care. Just like in all aspects of life they'll buy their success and then wonder why everyone else finds it such a struggle.

    1. Walt Stawicki says:

      And many will go ignorantly into vital profession armed with gpbeldugook to carry out their jobs agreeably with the boss. And become the boss down the line. These enginears will be running plants on the graveyard shift, testing constructionist components... Landing airplanes if you see my point. Only one way to make it right . pay al dem guys get degrees legit them stick to it. They can pass movies to movie guy...rocet science to dat guy. All work out fine.construction's

  19. Rob Eusebio says:

    I actually think there is an arguement to be made that this individual is not a scammer, at least not in the sense you are implying. It does not neccessarily make any step in the process more ethical or helpful but I think withing a skewed conceptualization of both the research process and the point of a dissertation this could be considered a "service" rather than a scam.

  20. Rob Eusebio says:

    Also I do like the idea of a unscrumpulous/affluent researcher creating a circular system between similar writing services and scam journals in which they are relatively removed from the entire process of generating useless research publications on their way to tenure.

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