[Taxacom] Nepal "visiting researcher" scam revisited

Nadia Talent nadia.talent at utoronto.ca
Fri Jul 12 15:51:18 CDT 2013

A colleague, who has fielded a number of similar cases addressed to a professional society rather than to a research institution, suggests that where it is a possible that the contact might indeed be genuine, a good test is to conduct a video Skype interview with the applicant, including a video tour of the applicant's institution.

Nadia Talent
Research Associate, Royal Ontario Museum,
Green Plant Herbarium (TRT),
Department of Natural History,
100 Queen's Park,
Toronto, M5S 2C6, Canada

On 2013-07-12, at 12:58 , Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

> 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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