I came very close to participating in a scam executed by an India ‘social networking’ site. Unwittingly, of course! It started when I received a mail from a site called yaari.com:

‘xyd wants you to join Yaari!… Is xyz your friend?… Please respond or xyz might think you said no’

Normally I completely ignore such messages, but this time I did not. Why? Firstly, I was curious (media has been giving some play to this site), and the curiosity was heightened by the fact that the company is named as Yaari LLC, and provides an Atlanta address on the invite. Then of course, I was curious what my good friend was doing on a site like this, perhaps there is more there than apparent from the name.

So I went. A short registration later they asked me for my Google or Yahoo password so that they could check if any of my friends were already registered (this step could not be bypassed). I have used this tool at other international sites, but somehow I was suspicious, because they did not give me an option to bypass the utility. Just to be sure I went to the About Us page of the site – Stanford education, lot of media play… looked ok. Somehow I decided NOT to give them my Google password. I feel ashamed to say this but somewhere they being an India site made me doubt their integrity. Hindsight perhaps, but I cannot think of any other reason. . .

A couple of hours later I received a mail from the friend titled ‘YAARI.com is a spammer’ and the contents of the mail:

I received a mail from a friend that was similar to the one you received from yaari.com, pretending it was from me.

They have misused my permission to check if any of the persons in my address book was on their site and sent mails to everyone on it, WITHOUT my express permission.

Please delete the mail from Yaari.

And avoid the site like the plague!

I apologise for the inconvenience

I come out of this with mixed feelings. Am I glad I did not give them my password? I have over 500 email-ids in my addresses book. Yet I feel sad that a web site has breached the unwritten rule of the game and now I, and perhaps you if you have read this, and others who have been penalized, will never trust this beautiful utility and perhaps India sites who expressly promise not to misuse your email id.

PS: Yaari has its flanks covered, perhaps because it is registered in highly litigious US. The fine print of the site’s user agreement, which most people never read, says that they will send mails to all the people in the user’s address book. From now on, I will read the fine print of all sites, at least all sites led by Indians. What a shame!

First published on September 3, 2007