Va State Police warns of automated traffic ticket email scam

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia State Police is warning citizens about an “automated traffic ticket email scam” being used by scammers to demand money for unpaid traffic tickets.

“The email scam is just one of numerous tactics used by scammers to harass individuals under the guise of being the Virginia State Police,” a VSP spokesperson wrote.

State Police said they do not use or issue digital/automated traffic tickets or summonses.

The department is warning anyone who receives the email to not click on any links provided and delete it immediately.

This scam notice comes one month after the department warned citizens about state police phone numbers being cloned by scammers demanding money and/or threatening individuals with arrest warrants.

State Police advised residents who received the calls to hang up immediately.

Here are some tips from VSP to protect you from similar scams:

Never open or click on a link in an email from an unknown email address, individual or organization.

To check the validity of an email, locate the entity’s website and call to determine if it is a legitimate email. The same goes for an individual.

Never give out personal information, credit card numbers, bank account information, etc. to an unknown individuals or entities via the phone or email.

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Robo-parking enforcement to hit Edmonton this fall

Be warned. An Edmonton driver’s chances of getting away with illegal parking are set to drop dramatically when city officials roll out their new robo-parking patrol.

Car-mounted cameras will automatically check licence plates against the parking payment records while rolling at 50 km/h on downtown streets. A wall-mounted camera will take a picture every time a car enters or exits a city-owned parking lot to ensure payment and the human patrol no longer tasked with marching downtown streets will redeploy to school zones and other hot-spot areas.

City officials are evaluating product bids now and hope to have a test car on city streets in October. The full rollout would hit Edmonton by spring. “That would be ideal,” said Erin Blaine, parking enforcement co-ordinator.

“It’s just a way more efficient way to use resources,” Blaine said. The parking rules are there to ensure spots remain open for drop-in customers for local businesses, and the automated enforcement will be more reliable for everyone. “It eliminates officer error.”

Similar to photo radar, scofflaws will get a ticket in the mail rather than under their vehicle’s windshield wiper. It will include a photo of the licence plate, which Blaine hopes will reduce the number of people appealing these tickets in court. She currently has five to 10 officers called to court every week.

It’s a $50 ticket for motorists who do not pay for parking.

An update on the project went to city council last week. It’s a $12-million effort, with $5.2 million already spent on the new digital parking meters. It’s listed as late because the city originally thought it could roll out the whole plan by 2015.

The third phase — having city-owned parkades calculate the number and location of spots left — is still being developed.

The report to council says implementation was delayed while city officials investigated the possibility of partnering with another municipality.

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Surveillance leads to profit in Washington

In a small office in Ashburn, Va., ensconced among the government contractors that make up the Dulles Technology Corridor, a start-up called Babel Street is bringing government-style surveillance to an entirely new market.

The company’s Web crawlers, offered under a subscription called Babel X, trawl some 40 online sources, scooping up data from popular sites such as Instagram and a Korean social media platform as well as inside “dark Web” forums where cybercriminals lurk.

Police departments investigating a crime might use the service to scan posts linked to a certainneighborhood over a specified period of time. Stadium managers use it to hunt for security threats based on electronic chatter.

The Department of Homeland Security, county governments, law enforcement agencies and the FBI use it to keep tabs on dangerous individuals, even when they are communicating in one of more than 200 languages, including emoji.

The firm, staffed by former government intelligence veterans, is part of an insular but thriving cottage industry of data aggregators that operate outside of military and intelligence agencies. The 100-person company said it is profitable, something that is rare for a tech start-up in its third year. (It declined, though, to release financial details.) It recently took on $2.25 million from investors, bringing its total capital raised from investors to just over $5 million.

A U.S. subsidiary of the European software giant SAP is its largest institutional investor.

Businesses like Babel Street have to tread an ethical line to avoid igniting privacy concerns, even though the data they access is generally publicly available on the Internet. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regard the industry’s growth as a worrying proliferation of online surveillance.

“These products can provide a very detailed picture of a person’s private life,” said Matt Cagle, an ACLU lawyer who studies the issue.

Last year, Chicago-based social media aggregator Geofeedia was thrust into the national spotlight when the ACLU published a report alleging it had helped police departments track racially charged protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

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Sacramento neighborhood hires private security, sees crime drop

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — Sacramento’s Woodlake neighborhood is among a growing number of communities that is adding an extra layer of protection against crime: private security.

“It’s just another set of eyes on the situation,” said Andy Hernandez, a homeowner and member of the Woodlake neighborhood safety committee.

Hernandez helped push Woodlake residents to hire the firm Paladin Security in 2012.

In the past five years, they’ve seen a drastic change.

“We’ve seen a major drop in the everyday petty crimes, and it seems to have reduced the number of car break-ins,” Hernandez said.

Now, more neighborhoods and organizations are following suit.

“We’ve certainly gotten a lot busier,” said Matt Carroll, Paladin’s vice president of operations. “We’re seeing an increase in our call volume of 20 to 30 percent every year over the past five years.”

Paladin now services about 450 customers in the greater Sacramento region.

That includes neighborhoods such as Woodlake, regional transit stations and a growing number of business districts.

“Police have to work for everyone, and we only have to work for the people who are paying us,” Carroll said.

And police said they support the efforts of security officers like Ryan Giarmona to help reduce and identify crime.

“I think it takes a lot of pressure off their shoulders, and they actually like us assisting them and helping them,” said Giarmona, who works with Paladin Security four times a week, serving 12-hour shifts mostly at Regional Transit light rail stations.

Sacramento police sent KCRA the following statement: “We appreciate the presence of private patrols in the city. It is important to remember that private security officers do not have peace officer authority and do not have the training that police officers in California have.”

But for Hernandez and his neighbors, who voluntarily pay about $20 a month per home for private security, it offers peace of mind he can’t put a price on.

“Quite frankly we wanted to be able to help our law enforcement officers any way we could in solving crimes and preventing crimes,” Hernandez said.

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22 indicted in ICE-led probe into multimillion dollar theft ring

SAN DIEGO – A San Diego federal grand jury has indicted 22 defendants following a long-term probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into a highly organized, often violent theft ring suspected of stealing more than $20 million worth of merchandise from upscale shopping malls in the San Diego area and nationwide.

Twelve of the defendants named in the indictment were arrested Wednesday morning during a carefully coordinated operation in the San Diego area involving more than 250 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel. Three of those charged in the cases were already in custody. The other seven individuals named in the indictment remained at large as of early Wednesday afternoon. The defendants who are in custody are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court Thursday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Lynn Major.

As part of Wednesday’s enforcement actions, investigators searched three homes in Lemon Grove, Chula Vista, and San Diego. The searches resulted in the confiscation of approximately $30,000 in cash, along with about a dozen large trash bags filled with new clothing, the merchandise tags and security devices still attached. The goods included items from Victoria’s Secret, Hollister Co., Guess, Express, and Abercrombie & Fitch, and brands such as Calvin Klein, Hurley, Armani, Adidas, Kenneth Cole, and Puma. Agents also recovered piles of new Louis Vuitton shoes and boxes of security sensors that had been removed from clothing.

The indictment alleges the defendants formed crews of thieves to steal merchandise from retail stores throughout the U.S. The stolen items were then transported across state lines and sold in Mexico. According to the indictment, on Oct. 23, 2013, defendant Maria Angelica Mendez Valdivia had more than $480,000 worth of merchandise stolen from at least 57 retailers. The indictment states the goods were then transported to Mexico and sold to an alleged “fence,” defendant Sara Portilla, who is accused of selling the merchandise from a store she operates in Tijuana.

The highly organized ring, which investigators believe has been in operation for over a decade, assigned members of its theft crews specific roles. Team leaders selected the stores to target, scouted the locations, and choreographed the actions of other team members using cell phones and hand signals. The team’s so-called “mules” smuggled the stolen merchandise out of stores in “booster bags” fitted with metallic linings designed to defeat anti-theft sensors. And finally, the team’s “blockers” prevented store employees from seeing the ongoing theft, either by obstructing their view, distracting them, or by physically preventing the employees from responding.

When necessary, court documents state, the teams used force against store employees, customers, and law enforcement to escape. For example, the indictment alleges that in November 2009 defendant Sergio Manuel Montano Nava knocked over an infant in its stroller and injured the child’s father to avoid being arrested for a theft at a Hollister store in Schaumburg, Illinois. In November 2012, defendants Jose Damazo Herrera, Robin Macias, and others allegedly drove vehicles through a crowd while fleeing a theft from a Hollister store in the Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego. In yet another incident in March 2013, one of the defendants allegedly grabbed a loss prevention officer by the throat and threw her to the ground while running from a theft at Abercrombie & Fitch at the Plaza Bonita Mall in National City.

“The mall is supposed to be a safe place for families to shop, eat and enjoy themselves,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson. “Instead, a prolific and violent group of thieves has stolen millions of dollars in merchandise as well as peace of mind from mall employees and customers. With today’s action, we are protecting customers and businesses both physically and economically, and we are restoring and preserving the safety of our community gathering spots.”

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Equifax says 143m Americans’ social security numbers exposed in hack

Credit monitoring company Equifax says a breach exposed the social security numbers and other data of about 143 million Americans.

After discovering the breach, but before notifying the public, three Equifax senior executives sold shares in the company worth almost $1.8m. Since the public announcement, the company’s share price has tumbled.

The Atlanta-based company said Thursday that “criminals” exploited a US website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.

It said consumers’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers were exposed. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 US consumers were also accessed.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said the company’s chairman and CEO Richard Smith. “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.”

The company said hackers also accessed some “limited personal information” from British and Canadian residents.

Equifax said it doesn’t believe that any consumers from other countries were affected.

Such sensitive information can be enough for crooks to hijack people’s identities, potentially wreaking havoc on the victims’ lives.

Financial institutions, landlords and other businesses draw on data from credit monitoring companies like Equifax to verify people’s identity and ensure they are suitable for leases and loans. This breach has given cybercriminals a treasure trove of data to assume the identities of those affected and carry out fraudulent transactions in their name.

“On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10 in terms of potential identity theft,” said Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. “Credit bureaus keep so much data about us that affects almost everything we do.”

Ryan Kalember, from cybersecurity company Proofpoint said: “This has really called into question the entire model of how we authenticate ourselves to financial institutions. The fact that we still use things like mother’s maiden name, social security number and date of birth is ridiculous.”

The breach could also undermine the integrity of the information stockpiled by two other major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, since they hold virtually all the data that Equifax does, Litan said.

Equifax discovered the hack 29 July, but waited until Thursday to warn consumers. In the interim, as first reported by Bloomberg, chief financial officer John Gamble sold shares worth $946,374 and president of US information solutions Joseph Loughran exercised options to sell stock worth $584,099. President of workforce solutions Rodolfo Ploder also sold stock worth $250,458.

Ines Gutzmer, head of corporate communications for Equifax, said: “The three executives who sold a small percentage of their Equifax shares on Tuesday, August 1, and Wednesday, August 2, had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”

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Authorities Are Toughening Penalties To Would-Be Looters

In flooded Houston, with scores of businesses closed and homes evacuated, authorities are sending a message to those thinking of looting or price gouging: Taking advantage of the situation won’t be tolerated.

Police are beefing up security over reports of looting during and after Hurricane Harvey. That includes imposing a curfew and stiffening penalties for crimes committed in the stricken area.

“We’re city that is about diversity and opportunity and all kinds of justice,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “But we’re not a city that’s going to tolerate people victimizing people that are at the lowest point in their life.”

Acevedo said additional police officers were heading into the Houston area and described the curfew as a “tool to assess the intentions of people that are out there.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner stated that the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew is intended to prevent criminal activity. It “exempts flood relief volunteers, those seeking shelter, first responders, and those going to and from work.”

It’s not clear how many criminal incidents have occurred in areas hit by flooding, and the police chief declined to provide statistics. “I don’t have the numbers. I can just tell you … we’re nipping it in the bud,” Acevedo said.

Fourteen people accused of looting were arrested in the past 48 hours, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement released Tuesday. They will face “heftier penalties” if they are found to have broken the law in the disaster area. Burglarizing a home could mean life in prison.

“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Ogg said. “Anyone who tries to take advantage of this storm to break into homes or businesses should know that they are going to feel the full weight of the law. … Offenders will be processed around the clock without delay.”

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NC College Launches Drone Academy for Public Safety

A North Carolina college is offering a bird’s-eye view to enhanced public-safety innovation with the opening of a drone academy this fall.

Located 50 miles south of Greensboro, Montgomery Community College will launch the NC Public Safety Drone Academy to prepare regional emergency service members and first responders with the needed tools to become effective and well-educated drone pilots.

The college’s drone program got off the ground last year in offering a Part 107 Prep course as well as a basic flight training class for emergency services.

“We decided to legitimize ourselves throughout North Carolina by partnering with the state Division of Aviation, Department of Emergency Services, and several local and state municipalities to create the academy,” MCC Director of Health & Public Safety Riley Beaman said.

Tuition will be waived for emergency/public-safety employees such as sheriff’s deputies, police officers, firefighters and first responders.

The 95-hour academy will focus on drone laws and regulations while offering a hands-on flight school that will expose pilots to:

Simulation Flight Time: grasping drone mechanics and basic operation through simulation;
Real-World Flight Time: after learning the basics, completing real flight time objectives and training;
Live Scenario-based Flight Objectives: focusing on fire, rescue, police, and emergency management situations and scenarios;
UAV Mobile Command Center operations training.
The college deploys a variety of more than 40 drones of all sizes – from microdrones to quadcopters, specifically the industrial grade DJ1 Matrice 100 equipped with a thermal camera.

“There’s something about North Carolina being first in flight and first in unmanned flight,” MCC Dean of Continuing Education said in a recent interview with The (Asheboro, N.C.) Courier-Tribune. “It’s been said that drones are the most impactful thing in aviation since the jet engine.”

When it comes to innovative drone education, colleges and universities are soaring – especially in North Carolina.

As earlier reported in DroneLife, Lenoir Community College now offers a drone-piloting program and several Lenoir County agencies plan to take advantage of it to receive federally-mandated training. The program grants students an associate’s degree in drone piloting – the first ever in the state. Edgecombe Community College in eastern North Carolina offers a consumer-level class.

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Security officer discovers toxic leak after man drilled holes in tanks of cyanide

“A Wooster man faces criminal charges after he broke into an electroplating company he once owned and drilled holes in tanks of dangerous chemicals, Cleveland police investigators said.

The incident sent one employee to the hospital for exposure to toxic chemicals, and risked a potential environmental disaster, according to a Cleveland police report.

Benjamin Dagley, 50, is charged with breaking and entering in the Aug. 22 incident at Cleveland Plating on East 134th Street in the South Collinwood neighborhood.

Dagley was identified in police reports as a former co-owner of the business, but court records indicate he owned a similar electroplating company at the same location before Cleveland Plating took over, and he still owns the property itself.

Employees called police around 8 p.m. Aug. 22 after a security guard discovered gas escaping in one of the facility’s chemical rooms.

Surveillance footage later revealed Dagley drilled into tanks of sodium cyanide, hydrochloric acid, yellow chromate, ferrous chloride, and sulfuric acid, according to a current owner, Ed Cochran.

“If you mix the (cyanide and hydrochloric acid), you basically have the cyanide gas of World War I,” Cochran said. “It certainly would produce a toxic vapor that could kill.”

Employees told police that the released chemicals “are severe enough to cause a large scale catastrophe, and Dagley knew what he was doing,” the report says.

Potential cyanide poisoning is the reason why the 27-year-old security guard who found the leaks was taken to University Hospitals, according to Cochran and the report.

Her injuries and current condition were not immediately available, but Cochran believes she has been released from the hospital.

Firefighters and a hazmat specialist went to the building the night of the break-in, and Cleveland police and firefighters also notified the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the report says.

Cochran told cleveland.com that the business hired a hazmat firm to oversee clean-up. Within 36 hours, that process was complete and the Ohio EPA determined all chemicals were contained inside the building, with no exposure to the neighborhood, according to an EPA spokesman.

The police report does not say how Dagley managed to break into the building. Surveillance showed him walking into the property around 6 p.m., drilling holes into the containers, then leaving about 15 minutes later, the report says.

“Thank god we have security guards there 24/7,” Cochran said. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been discovered until (the next morning), and it would’ve been late.”

A warrant was issued for Dagley last week, but he hasn’t been arrested, court records show.

Police didn’t outline a possible motive and Cochran declined to share details due to a pending civil case in Wayne County.

Court records there and in Cuyahoga County indicate that Dagley and his companies are locked in a financial dispute over the property, its mortgage, and Cleveland Plating’s lease, among other things.

“He wants us to settle and we won’t pay, that’s why I think he’s done all this,” Cochran said.

Cleveland Plating’s current owners asked a judge for a temporary restraining order against Dagley earlier this year, saying that he entered the building April 8 and put locks on almost all the doors, court records show. The judge denied that request.

About two months later, Dagley was charged with misdemeanor assault after he returned to the property with two other people and broke into the business through a roll door, the reports and court documents say.

A security guard told police that an irate Dagley yelled at him through a crack in an office door, then slammed the door into his knee and punched him in the mouth, the report says.
One of the other men said he rode to the business with Dagley that day to “help him lock the building up,” the report says.

The assault case is still pending in Cleveland Municipal Court, court records show. Dagley’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 7.”

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