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Nidhi Razdan doubles down on phishing claim

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Nidhi Razdan — the Indian journalist who insists she was duped into believing she had been hired as a journalism professor at Harvard — has doubled down on her claim.

In a lengthy blog post, Razdan states “my “appointment” to Harvard was all part of an elaborate and sophisticated phishing attack to access my bank account, personal data, my emails, my medical records, passport and my devices like my computer and phone.”

She acknowledges that Harvard University doesn’t offer a journalism major, which ought to have raised a red flag. However, “Harvard has a school called the Extension School offering a Journalism Degree Programme. The actual programme is called the Master of Liberal Arts, Journalism degree. The Extension School lists 500 faculty of whom 17 are categorised as journalism faculty. A number of these people are working journalists. I believed I fit this profile.”

She adds that the information she received from Harvard seemed legitimate, and she believed the people reaching out to her were from the university. They went a step further, according to Razdan: “They also separately emailed my former employers at NDTV and others for recommendation letters and official-looking acknowledgments were sent back to them. They too did not think anything was amiss.”

Later, Razdan asserts, she received other information. “I was sent class schedules; details of the subjects I would be teaching; a detailed break up of my class. The classes were supposed to start online in September 2020 but were put off first till October and then January “due to COVID”. Again, I didn’t think anything was amiss.”

But soon, Razdan claims, she started to feel uneasy. “In December, I wrote to the head of HR at Harvard but didn’t hear back. Then in January I wrote to the office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. It was only earlier this week that I heard back from them telling me there was no record of my appointment and that the people claiming to be their HR staff do not exist!”

She immediately demanded an investigation. “I have filed a police complaint and handed over all the documents and communication. This was a gross criminal act. I am very shaken by this and keep kicking myself for being such an idiot. With the benefit of hindsight, could I have done more due diligence? Absolutely, yes. But these scams succeed because they look so real. What these scamsters put together was good enough for me to throw away a 21-year career in TV.”

She concludes: “I am angry, disappointed and upset but also relieved that I found out what was going on and alerted authorities including Harvard before any serious damage was done. If after all this the only thing I can be accused of is being stupid, then I’ll take it on the chin, learn from it and move on.”

I recently posted a few questions that I thought were necessary to address, as Razdan continues to assert her innocence. After reading her post, I continue to be amazed that this woman with two decades of professional experience was duped.

If I understand her blog post correctly, she was interviewed only once. From that, she insists she almost immediately received an offer to teach. Had she done any digging, she’d have quickly learned nothing moves that quickly in U.S. higher education.

There also are significant time gaps in her story. Based on what she writes, it appears she had no contact — either started by her or by someone else — between March and perhaps June, when she quit her post at NDTV, a prominent Indian TV network.

It appears another lengthy gap in communication followed. And it was not until Razdan wasn’t receiving any money that she appears to have grown suspicious.

On top of that, she provides no detailed information into what research she undertook to learn about Harvard, or if she reached out to any faculty at the Extension School to learn about life and teaching at the institution.

Let’s be clear: It’s far better if Razdan is telling the truth then if she in any way is complicit in this scam. I presume the relevant authorities in India and the U.S. will undertake a complete investigation. The prominent figure and the prominent university involved seem to mandate it.

I also presume Razdan has been advised by an attorney to say nothing more about her situation. That silence gives her supporters and critics free rein to make their own assertions. Sadly, neither will serve Razdan well.

Watch “A snowy Saturday morning, 16Jan2021” on YouTube

ICYMI: Important questions to consider in the Nidhi Razdan phishing claim

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It’s increasingly difficult to believe Indian journalist Nidhi Razdan. She claims she was duped into believing she had an associate professorship waiting for her at Harvard University.

Razdan took to social media on Friday, stating she had fallen victim to a phishing attack that had convinced her that she would be teaching at Harvard. She insists she quit her job at a prominent Indian TV network in June of last year because of the new position, which she asserts was supposed to begin in the fall but was then pushed to January of this year. She claims that only recently did she become concerned there was no faculty spot for her.

Let’s consider some of the important questions Razdan must answer about her “employment” at Harvard. Because the uncomfortable reality is if she isn’t the victim of a hoax then she might be a participant in one.

  1. Who interviewed Razdan about the job? If the answer is no one, then a troubling question arises: How could a woman with over two decades in the professional world truly believe she had a teaching position at one of America’s most prominent universities if she had never formally spoken to multiple people at the institution? In addition, would she not have taken time to look up the men or women who were speaking to her, if there were any interviews, so she could learn something about them? That examination of Harvard employees also could have helped her identify someone lying about working there as he or she “interviewed” her.
  2. What employment information — including a contract and benefits — did she receive from Harvard? Did she carefully review these documents, or did she simply and gleefully sign them before returning them to…whom and at what email or mailing address? Here again, to accept the phishing claim, we must believe she inked her name to faked documents.
  3. Did Razdan ever go online and take a look at Harvard’s educational offerings? If she had, she’d have quickly realized the university offers no journalism program and therefore there are no journalism faculty. We have to accept she never did her homework, and that alone raises doubts about her phishing claim. She’s a journalist, so she should be quite familiar with investigating stories, topics and people. How could she not access the university’s website to learn more about the place she’d be working? And if she did, how could she have missed seeing no information about journalism at Harvard?
  4. Why did Razdan publicly promote on social media she was an associate professor at Harvard before she had ever stepped foot onto the campus? There are screenshots showing in recent weeks or months she had changed at least one of her social media accounts to indicate she was a Harvard associate professor. We’ve all heard that line that “nothing is official until it’s official,” and there’s ample evidence her “employment” was never official.
  5. Indians are well represented at America’s colleges and universities, including at Harvard. At any point did Razdan reach out to any of them in order to gain an understanding of what teaching at a U.S. university would be like? Such conversations would have allowed her to share her plans with people who certainly could have warned her about the absence of a journalism program at Harvard.
  6. Is there any evidence that any personal information Razdan might have shared has been used against her? Access to the Indian equivalent to Americans’ social security numbers, for example, would have offered the scammers opportunity to damage her. Has that happened?

I recognize we know precious little about this story right now. Presuming Razdan kept all communications and documents she received, she ought to be able to craft a narrative detailing why she believed she was joining the faculty at one of America’s premier universities. (For what it’s worth, it appears Razdan doesn’t hold a terminal degree in any academic discipline.)

As I read Razdan’s claims, I was reminded of the cat fishing story forever linked to former Notre Dame linebacker Mante Te’o. Even now, more than eight years later, there are questions about that uncomfortable period of his life. I know phishing and cat fishing aren’t the same; however, the elaborate nature of any such scam demands the person who claims to be a victim prove his or her innocence.

It’s incumbent on Razdan to do just that. And there are difficult questions she must address in that process.

Important questions to consider in the Nidhi Razdan phishing claim

Flag of India, Wikipedia

It’s increasingly difficult to believe Indian journalist Nidhi Razdan. She claims she was duped into believing she had an associate professorship waiting for her at Harvard University.

Razdan took to social media on Friday, stating she had fallen victim to a phishing attack that had convinced her that she would be teaching at Harvard. She insists she quit her job at a prominent Indian TV network in June of last year because of the new position, which she asserts was supposed to begin in the fall but was then pushed to January of this year. She claims that only recently did she become concerned there was no faculty spot for her.

Let’s consider some of the important questions Razdan must answer about her “employment” at Harvard. Because the uncomfortable reality is if she isn’t the victim of a hoax then she might be a participant in one.

  1. Who interviewed Razdan about the job? If the answer is no one, then a troubling question arises: How could a woman with over two decades in the professional world truly believe she had a teaching position at one of America’s most prominent universities if she had never formally spoken to multiple people at the institution? In addition, would she not have taken time to look up the men or women who were speaking to her, if there were any interviews, so she could learn something about them? That examination of Harvard employees also could have helped her identify someone lying about working there as he or she “interviewed” her.
  2. What employment information — including a contract and benefits — did she receive from Harvard? Did she carefully review these documents, or did she simply and gleefully sign them before returning them to…whom and at what email or mailing address? Here again, to accept the phishing claim, we must believe she inked her name to faked documents.
  3. Did Razdan ever go online and take a look at Harvard’s educational offerings? If she had, she’d have quickly realized the university offers no journalism program and therefore there are no journalism faculty. We have to accept she never did her homework, and that alone raises doubts about her phishing claim. She’s a journalist, so she should be quite familiar with investigating stories, topics and people. How could she not access the university’s website to learn more about the place she’d be working? And if she did, how could she have missed seeing no information about journalism at Harvard?
  4. Why did Razdan publicly promote on social media she was an associate professor at Harvard before she had ever stepped foot onto the campus? There are screenshots showing in recent weeks or months she had changed at least one of her social media accounts to indicate she was a Harvard associate professor. We’ve all heard that line that “nothing is official until it’s official,” and there’s ample evidence her “employment” was never official.
  5. Indians are well represented at America’s colleges and universities, including at Harvard. At any point did Razdan reach out to any of them in order to gain an understanding of what teaching at a U.S. university would be like? Such conversations would have allowed her to share her plans with people who certainly could have warned her about the absence of a journalism program at Harvard.
  6. Is there any evidence that any personal information Razdan might have shared has been used against her? Access to the Indian equivalent to Americans’ social security numbers, for example, would have offered the scammers opportunity to damage her. Has that happened?

I recognize we know precious little about this story right now. Presuming Razdan kept all communications and documents she received, she ought to be able to craft a narrative detailing why she believed she was joining the faculty at one of America’s premier universities. (For what it’s worth, it appears Razdan doesn’t hold a terminal degree in any academic discipline.)

As I read Razdan’s claims, I was reminded of the cat fishing story forever linked to former Notre Dame linebacker Mante Te’o. Even now, more than eight years later, there are questions about that uncomfortable period of his life. I know phishing and cat fishing aren’t the same; however, the elaborate nature of any such scam demands the person who claims to be a victim prove his or her innocence.

It’s incumbent on Razdan to do just that. And there are difficult questions she must address in that process.