[Taxacom] Nepal "visiting researcher" scam revisited

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Jul 12 11:58:15 CDT 2013


Apologies for x-posting, but this is important. If you are affiliated 
with a research institution, please take the time to read through 
everything; this has affected people in the EU, Canada, and US in the 
past, and may be more extensive.

We just received the following "request", which should look familiar to 
several of you (Andy Bentley and Heather Thorwald, especially), and new 
to others:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	university visit
Date: 	Fri, 12 Jul 2013 07:44:57 -0700
From: 	Dr. Ram Kailash P. Yadav <dr.ram12 at yahoo.com>
Reply-To: 	Dr. Ram Kailash P. Yadav <dr.ram12 at yahoo.com>
To: 	douglas.yanega at ucr.edu <douglas.yanega at ucr.edu>


It's my great opportunity to introduce you my self . I am Associate 
Professor Dr. Ram Kailash P. Yadav  Tribhuvan University central 
Department of Botany and part time i involved my self as a Researcher 
inResearch and Conservation of Nature Nepal (RECON)  and . It was 
originally established with the objectivesof natural resource 
management, conservation, applied research on the biodiversity, ecology 
of both flora, fauna , Cultural,Private Viewing for Cultural or Academic 
Research and the development of human resources through in-country 
training , in wildlife techniques, community participation techniques, 
community forestry, conservation education .The RECON, established by 
late "Oohi"Govinda Bahadur Gurung, the pioneer taxidermist and 
naturalist in Nepal, is dedicated to the research of floral, faunal, 
archaeological, geological and natural resources within county since 
2001 AD. With the aim of conservation of different zoological, botanical 
species as well as natural resources, we are running our organization. 
RECON is providing Vocational training on Taxidermy and wildlife art in 
close collaboration in Kathmandu, Nepal. The training is three to six 
months long based on the curriculum and its intensity. Here is brilliant 
and expert teacher in this museum. After taking this training, the 
museum will send to test of International level of training in foreign 
area.Therefore, I would like to visit your  university,university Museum 
and respective collection departments with my colleagues in near future 
as a part of scholarly visit to receive and share research knowledge and 
scientific activities with your experts.Hence, I hereby, humbly request 
you to arrange a time schedule for our scholarly visit to your renowned 
institution on July 2013.

Sincerely,
/Associate Prof.Dr.Ram Kailash P.Yadav /
/Central Department of Botany/
/Tribhuvan University/
/Kiritipur,Kathmandu,Nepal/
/Post Box: 26429/
/Phone:-+977-1-4331322,433372/
/E-mail:-dr.ram12 at yahoo.com <mailto:E-mail%3A-dr.ram12 at yahoo.com>/
/Website:http://www.cdbtu.edu.np <http://www.cdbtu.edu.np/>/
/www.recon.org.np <http://www.recon.org.np/>/




**
Here's the thing about this:

There are two very different scams out of India/Nepal targeting US 
museums; the "please send specimens (so we can sell them)" scam and the 
"please send a formal invitation (so we can issue a fraudulent visa)" 
scam. The former seems to be fairly limited in terms of targeting places 
that might actually have preserved vertebrates. The latter targets any 
and all museums, including ours. Over the years, we've gotten at least 3 
requests directly, phrased very much like the one below, which I got 
last year:

-----------
Date: Mon, 7 May 2012 11:52:48 -0700
Subject: visit of ento museum
From: Ishwarbhai Patel <dr.ispatel at gmail.com>
To: <douglas.yanega at ucr.edu>

Sir,
I have came to know to that you have prestigious entomological museum. 
Now a days I am in California and intend to see your museum as I am 
basically Agricultural entomologist working on various
  aspctes of Integrated Pest Management at Research institute in Gujarat 
state, INDIA.You are requested to give permission to see  the museum.
with kind regards
thanks
--
Dr. I. S. Patel
Research Scientist (Ento.) & PI (/Helicoverpa/)
AICRP on Pigeonpea
Centre of Excellence for Research on Pulses
S. D. Agricultural University
Sardarkrushinagar-385506, Dist. B.K.,
Gujarat (INDIA)

02742-266802(R)
02748-278459(O)
09898208274 (Mob)
-----------

The interesting thing is that, according to their website, there is no 
I.S. Patel on the staff of the Centre of Excellence for Research on 
Pulses in Sardarkrushinagar - and a message to the director there asking 
about him was ignored. This is the same pattern as in previous requests 
we have received; they always ask for a letter of invitation or 
permission, the message originates from a suspiciously non-official 
email address (hotmail, gmail or yahoo), and no such person appears to 
be employed at whatever institution they claim to be from (if such an 
institution exists). Sometimes, the person exists, but the e-mail is 
fraudulent. In this present case, I sent a message to the REAL Dr. Ram's 
institutional address for confirmation that the message was sent by him. 
I do not expect confirmation.

This was a major topic in the museum community back in 2009 with a spate 
of messages sent to many collections, nearly all with requests from 
Nepal. Here are three of the relevant sets of messages, with numbers to 
group them by threads (anonymized):

(1)-----------
Dear Dr.XXX

thank you very very much for your kindly email.

I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that Zoological
&Botanical Garden of  Kathmandu, Nepal. It is one of the major
Biodiverdiversity research institutions in Nepal. The mail objectives of
the institution are.

To conduct Taxonomic, zoogeographic and phylogentetic studies, a wide
range research for the exploration of flora and fauna and biological
diversity of the earth. To establish a biological collection institution
and maintain it under optimal living conditions, in an effort to preserve
rare animals and plants threatened with extinction.

Fulfills objectives of sustainable development, to ensure clean and healthy
natural environment not only for present generation but also future
generation to come.

To conserve Nepal's natural resources and serve as a research and
educational facility in Nepal for scientists, students, and other
interested scholar

The main focus of the collections of zoology is to conduct research on
the taxonomy about plant .so  to study their facilities, new practices on
taxidermy and scientific collections as well as Plant.

Cheers
Dr.Rajkumar Chauhan ( Director)
Zoological and Botanical Garden Kathmandu, Nepal
www.znbgnepal.com

 > Dear Raja,
 > Thank you for sending me the details. I still need your postal address
to
 > put on my invitation letter. You haven't even given me the name of your
 > institution.
 > Sincerely,
 >XXX
 >> Dear prof.Dr.XXX
 >>
 >> Our Board Meeting decided that 3 staffs will visit XXX
 >> Department of Entomology along with me  in September 7-18 2009 for the
 >> purpose of scientific research activities about taxonomy about Insect
i am
 >> agree about our visit.All our total cost will be covered by our
Museum.
 >>
 >> Please let me know may i send you details for preparation invitation
 >> letter? or do you need format of welcome letter?
 >>
 >> Hoping you positive responces from you by email.
 >>
 >> Raja
 >> Nepal

which was followed up by:

Dear XXX,

We contacted the phone number provided in the purported website of the
Zoological and Botanical Garden of the Kathmandu. However, the number
turned out to be for a grocery shop.  The man who answered the phone
said this office was in the same house awhile back and he recounted they
had a very small operation.  The man thought this office no longer
existed.  As the credibility of the institution appears questionable, we
do not recommend you send your invitation letter unless Dr. Chauhan
sends you sufficient information about him and his organization to
establish that it a genuine organization.

Regards,
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy
Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: 977-1-400-7200
Fax: 977-1-400-7281


(2)----------
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2009 13:02:37 -0600
Thread-Topic: inquiry from Nepal
Thread-Index: AcoJbKXza1uYUpb6TvSogj1UeGLCGg==
From: <xxx>
To: <NHCOLL-L at lists.yale.edu>
Reply-To: xxx
Sender: owner-nhcoll-l at lists.yale.edu

If anyone has been contacted by Govinda Bhandari, director of Research 
and Conservation of Nature Nepal (RECON), regarding an invitation to 
visit to your institution, I d appreciate it if you would contact me 
off-list.
---

Subject: RE: [NHCOLL-L:4398] Re: inquiry from Nepal
Date: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 11:06:12 +0100
Thread-Topic: [NHCOLL-L:4398] Re: inquiry from Nepal
Thread-Index: AcoJe2CVjmQnCnYlRUqAmsuXGqVNAQFJeNmA
From: XXX
To: <dyanega at ucr.edu>

Doug

Similar Nepalese requests but none from this particular name.

I assume all are scams. Once they get visa support from us they would be 
free to enter the EU and could travel anywhere in Europe without 
restriction. A small number may be genuine but we have a policy of not 
supporting any visa application unless we initiate the process rather 
than being solicited by strangers.

One Nepalese taxidermy museum was very persistent and applied to various 
email addresses through our museum website after I had clearly explained 
our policy.
I have also noticed that every time we organise a conference there is a 
spate of non-national applications, always looking for an 'invitation' 
as opposed to simply applying themselves.

---

From: owner-nhcoll-l at lists.yale.edu 
[mailto:owner-nhcoll-l at lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
Sent: 20 July 2009 21:32
To: NHCOLL-L at lists.yale.edu
Subject: [NHCOLL-L:4398] Re: inquiry from Nepal
 >If anyone has been contacted by Govinda Bhandari, director of Research
 >and Conservation of Nature Nepal (RECON), regarding an invitation to
 >visit to your institution, I'd appreciate it if you would contact me
 >off-list.

There's a rash of things like this going around, and a few are from 
legitimate researchers, even if many are not. This is worth discussing 
on-list.

For one example I encountered recently, Narender Sharma of the 
Zoological Survey of India appears to be entirely legitimate.

On the other hand, Rajkumar Chauhan of the "Zoological & Botanical 
Garden of  Kathmandu, Nepal" is a fake, and it has been suggested that 
this is an outfit trying to get people illegally into the US (they use 
the letter of invitation to get a Visa, and then sell that to a third 
party).

Other vaguely-similar cases in the past reported here on NHCOLL appear 
to be fronts for biological supply companies, but this is a different 
sort of scam; and it's based on the real-life practices of institutions 
in and around India, soliciting letters of invitation to work abroad.

One cannot safely assume either that they are all real, OR that they are 
all fakes. You need to investigate carefully on a case-by-case basis. 
There is no reason to offend legitimate researchers in the process of 
weeding out the frauds.

To wit: Govinda Bhandari is the name of a PhD student at Kathmandu 
University in 2008. I find no records, however, relating to any entity 
known as "Nature Nepal". Unless it is a brand-spanking new NGO, this one 
is suspicious. It's not impossible for a PhD student to occupy a 
directorship right after graduation, but it's also not impossible for 
someone to just grab your name off the web and use it as a 
legitimate-sounding but hard-to-trace pseudonym.

(3)----------
----------------------
Along this same line I received a request a few years back from an 
ichthyologist from an African country wanting to visit the Canadian 
Museum of Nature in Ottawa.  He wanted to come and study curatorial 
techniques (all costs would be covered by a grant he had received) and 
so I prepared a letter of invitation.  All went as planned until the day 
before his scheduled arrival. At that time I received an email from a 
hotmail address claiming to be the visitors sister and telling me that 
the visitor had been in a car accident and would not be coming the next 
day so I was NOT to bother going to the airport to meet them.  In 
retrospect I feel quite sure this was simply a scam to get illegal entry 
into Canada (and perhaps from there to the USA).  I also realized that 
the original requests all came from a hotmail address as well and at the 
time I simply did not question it.  Given the circumstances in the world 
today we need to be diligent and follow up to be sure these are real 
scientifically based requests.
-----------
-----------

There was another related message, which I can't find in my archives, 
which gave an important detail regarding how the "letter of invitation" 
was, at least in India and Nepal, an essential item required in order to 
obtain a J-1 visa.

I suspect that there are more of these requests being received than 
people are admitting to: the above are just a few selected responses, 
but my impression was that lots of people had encountered this, and in 
the intervening years since the topic died down, it is likely that this 
has been ongoing but no one is talking about it. It's obviously time to 
talk about this again, and if anyone else has gotten requests like this 
recently, PLEASE share this information. The only way this scam will 
ever be completely shut down is if absolutely everyone knows that it is 
happening.

I realize it is possible that Dr. Ram Kailash P. Jadav sent this 
message, and I have sent a message to him to confirm it, but I consider 
it HIGHLY UNLIKELY, especially given that his institutional e-mail is 
not via yahoo (see http://cdbtu.edu.np/faculty/dr-ram-kailash-p-yadav). 
Note that one of the known frauds above also involved a person claiming 
to be associated with RECON. That alone raises a red flag here. No one 
should respond to this or similar solicitations until and unless you can 
obtain independent confirmation that the request is genuine. You should 
also file away the above information for future reference in case you 
are contacted with similar requests.

Peace,

-- 
Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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