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.

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