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L.Srikumar Pai
B.Sc( Engg.), MIE, MIWWA, MICI
Civil Engineer & CAD Specialist
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Venturing to get something out of nothing!

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Columnists: Sangeetha Sridhar, Dr.Rajan Philips, Hasan Kamoonpuri

Reflections-By Dr Rajan Philips

Venturing to get something out of nothing!

( This motivational article was published in Oman Observer , one of the leading Newspapers in Oman. The article is reproduced with the permission of the author )


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Dr.Rajan Philips Page  New


Every now and then I receive e-mail messages that should make a person’s heart leap up with joy. “You have won $10,000,000,000 in the XYZ National Lottery.’ We might go dizzy counting the number zeros in the figure. But I just ignore or delete the message without a second glance. I don’t believe in such incredible and unsolicited stroke of good fortune.

But some may find it difficult to disregard the windfall when the steps outlined to claim it look so simple. But logically speaking, it is against the law of nature to hope to gain something out of nothing. Why should anyone reward you so handsomely when you haven’t moved your little finger to earn the bonanza? But misplaced optimism or varying levels of greed is a human frailty that propels us to become victims of such e-mail frauds and scams.

But a few weeks ago I came across a very unusual mail that was quite sophisticated and intellectually appealing. I must confess I was taken in at least temporarily. It was a call to present papers at a very high profile international environment conference at a luxury Hotel in London. You had to send in a 150 words abstract on one of the sub-themes of the meet. The incentives if your paper was accepted were a free return air ticket and a decent travel allowance. Since I have some experience in the field and the themes looked significant, I sent in my abstract in a couple of days.
Meanwhile, a Google search about the conference directed me to a website that gave a lot of apparently authentic information on the organisation and listed the names of a few well-known multinational companies as sponsors.

Within 24 hours I had exciting news that my paper had been accepted and I was eligible for all the benefits promised. E-brochures on every aspect of the conference, accommodation as well as UK visa application form were attached! ‘What speed and efficiency,’ I marvelled.
Next day came a mail with instruction to send £250 by money transfer as advance for confirming the hotel room booking. This innocuous but unexpected request set me thinking. Something impelled me to carry out a small investigatory Google search. In hindsight the impulse was a godsend. I ran the ‘conference’ e-mail through the scanning software of a site called The results were quite revealing. A number of telltale signs that the message was a complex and ingenious Advance Fee Fraud (419 scam) emerged.

The contact number given was from UK but would redirect to a mobile phone in a different country. The e-mail of the sender was a free webmail that could be used from anywhere in the world. The request for payment by certain channels was also suspect.
Incidentally, I learnt that the Advance fee Fraud is also known as "Nigeria scam" and the name "419" scam comes from the article of the Nigerian penal code which covers this crime.

It was an unforgettable lesson I learnt in the nick of time and fortunately not the bitter way as some have the misfortune to. But the intricately and cunningly conceived ‘web’ of deception was truly staggering.

The Internet age has spawned many such smart cyber criminals waiting to hoodwink unsuspecting net citizens. It is difficult to apprehend and punish them. But we should avoid becoming their easy prey by remaining vigilant and curbing our avarice for undeserved gains.

 He who is greedy is always in want. — Horace
We risk all in being too greedy. — Jean de la Fontaine

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