A well-known Indian TV news anchor claimed on Twitter Friday that she was the victim of a ‘phishing attack,’ which misled her to believe for months that she had been hired as a journalism professor at Harvard.
Nidhi Razdan, who worked for 21 years as a reporter at New Delhi Television — a broadcast and digital news company in India — wrote that she quit her previous job in June because she was falsely under the impression that she had been hired by Harvard as an associate professor of journalism.
Razdan announced on Twitter in June that she was “changing direction and moving on” to “start as an Associate Professor teaching journalism as part of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.” The news generated significant media attention in India, and in the months since, she introduced herself as a Harvard professor during television appearances and on several websites.
Razdan wrote Friday that she was “given to believe” that she would begin teaching in September 2020; however, Razdan wrote that she began noticing “a number of administrative anomalies” as she prepared to take up her new post, and was told the classes she was set to teach were postponed to begin in January 2021.
“At first, I had dismissed these anomalies as being reflective of the new normal being dictated by the pandemic, but recently the representations being made to me were of an even more disquieting nature,” she wrote.
Razdan reached out to “senior authorities” at the University, with whom she shared “some of the correspondence” that Harvard had allegedly sent her. It was then that Razdan learned that she did not, in fact, receive a job offer, nor did her alleged teaching position even exist.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in a statement Friday that there is no department of journalism within the FAS nor a professional school of journalism at Harvard.
“After a careful review of Harvard’s people related systems, there is no record of, nor any knowledge of, an appointment involving Ms. Nidhi Razdan,” Dane wrote.
Despite the postponement of her alleged teaching appointment, Razdan has made public appearances under the titles “associate professor” and “associate professor of journalism at Harvard University” in the previous months.
In an interview hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Hindustan Times in late September 2020, Razdan said that she would be “starting classes in a few weeks” on “the ethics of journalism” and “how to report on foreign policy.”
Razdan wrote Friday that she was the target of a “sophisticated and coordinated phishing attack”; she noted that she has filed a complaint with the police and “provided them with all the relevant documentary evidence.”
“The perpetrators of this attack used clever forgeries and misrepresentations to obtain access to my personal data and communications and may have also gained access to my devices and my email/social media accounts,” she wrote.
“I hope that the police are able to get to the bottom of this attack on me at the earliest and help me bring this unsavoury incident to a swift end,” she added.
In a follow-up blog post on NDTV’s website on Saturday, Razdan further clarified that “no one ever asked me for money.” Warning others that she was the victim of “a very sophisticated attack,” Razdan wrote to “never trust anything online.”
“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,” Razdan wrote.
It remains unclear who was behind the hoax. Dane did not comment on whether Harvard is further investigating the alleged phishing attack.
Razdan has not yet made public any evidence of the scam, causing some Twitter users to question the legitimacy of her allegations.
“Nice try at diluting fraud into stupidity! A cute story does not change the fact that you profited off the @Harvard name for months for media clout,” one user wrote.
In her follow-up post, Razdan wrote that she had been approached about a teaching position by the organizers of a Kennedy School event was invited to speak at. A few weeks later, she wrote, she participated in a 90-minute interview for the position. She also researched online and “found a journalism degree programme being offered by the Harvard Extension School.”
However, Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, wrote on Twitter that Razdan could not have been hired as faculty for the program.
“Technically, you can also get a ‘Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, field: Journalism’ via @HarvardExt, but that is a separate open-admission program designed for adult learners, taught by adjuncts, and with no full-time journalism faculty,” Benton wrote.
Razdan, tweeting to her more than 900,000 followers on Friday, wrote that she would not be further addressing the incident on social media.
—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at email@example.com.