Entries Tagged "hoaxes"

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Craigslist Scam

This is a weird story: someone posts a hoax Craigslist ad saying that the owner of a home had to leave suddenly, and this his belongings were free for the taking. People believed the ad and starting coming by and taking his stuff.

But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.

On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

“I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back,” Salisbury said. “They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did.”

The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. On his way home he spotted other cars filled with his belongings.

Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.

The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. “They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true,” Salisbury said. “It boggles the mind.”

This doesn’t surprise me at all. People just don’t think of authenticating this sort of thing. And what if they did call a phone number listed on a hoax ad? How do they know the phone number is real? On the other hand, a phone number on the hoax ad would give the police something to find the hoaxer with.

At least this guy is getting some of his stuff back.

EDITED TO ADD (3/26): In comments, Karl pointed out a previous example of this hoax.

EDITED TO ADD (4/1): A couple have been charged with posting the ad; they allegedly used it to cover up their own thefts.

Posted on March 25, 2008 at 7:33 PM

Fake Dynamite Prompts Evacuation

Yes, it’s yet another story of knee-jerk overreaction to a nonexistent threat. But notice that the police evacuated everyone within a mile radius of the “dynamite.” Isn’t that a little excessive, even for real dynamite?

EDITED TO ADD (12/14): Assuming that this information is correct, this was an intentional hoax. The fake dynamite consisted of road flares duct taped together and attached to the side of the home.

Posted on December 6, 2007 at 6:43 AMView Comments

High-School Football Prank Provokes Terrorism Fears

Okay, so it was a stupid (and dangerous) stunt:

A 17-year-old Hopewell High student was apparently acting on a dare when he did a fly-over prank at a Hopewell High football game Friday, at one point dipping below the stadium lights.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said Sunday that the teen pilot and two teen passengers flew the length of the field three times around 8 p.m. The plane reportedly came within feet of a flag pole.

On the final pass, a pair of tennis shoes and a football dropped from the single-engine Cessna 172 into the end zone, officials said.

But this is just funny:

“My immediate reaction was that we were going to have a terrorist act of some sort,” said Vincent “Bud” Cesena, head of CMS law enforcement, who was among the 4,000 people in the stands.

Yeah, because the terrorists are going to target high-school football games.

Posted on November 13, 2007 at 6:01 AMView Comments

Modern-Day Revenge

Mad at someone? Turn him in as a terrorist:

A man in Sweden who was angry with his daughter’s husband has been charged with libel for telling the FBI that the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda, Swedish media reported on Friday.

The man, who admitted sending the email, said he did not think the US authorities would stupid enough to believe him.

The 40-year-old son-in-law and his wife were in the process of divorcing when the husband had to travel to the United States for business.

The wife didn’t want him to travel since she was sick and wanted him to help care for their children, regional daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet said without disclosing the couple’s names.

When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said.

EDITED TO ADD (11/6): Businesses do this too:

In May 2005 Jet’s application for a licence to fly to America was held up after a firm based in Maryland, also called Jet Airways, accused Mr Goyal’s company of being a money-laundering outfit for al-Qaeda. Mr Goyal says some of his local competitors were behind the claim, which was later withdrawn.

Posted on November 6, 2007 at 6:41 AMView Comments

Hacking of 911 Emergency Phone System

There are no details of what the “hacking” was, or whether it was anything more spoofing the Caller ID:

Randal T. Ellis, 19, allegedly impersonated a caller from the Lake Forest home shortly before midnight March 29, saying he had murdered someone in the house and threatened to shoot others.

Allegedly hacking into systems maintained by America Online and Verizon, Ellis used the couple’s names, which he had confirmed earlier in a prank call to their home, authorities said.


Authorities spent more than six months tracking down Ellis before arresting him in Mukilteo last week. He was in the process of being extradited to California on Tuesday and was charged with “false imprisonment by violence” and “assault with an assault weapon by proxy.” The crimes carry a possible prison sentence of 18 years.

Elizabeth Henderson, the assistant Orange County district attorney in charge of the economic-crimes unit, said Ellis’ scheme was “fairly difficult to unravel.”

Some more stories, with no more information.

Posted on October 19, 2007 at 6:36 AMView Comments

Fraudulent Amber Alerts

Amber Alerts are general notifications in the first few hours after a child has been abducted. The idea is that if you get the word out quickly, you have a better chance of recovering the child.

There’s an interesting social dynamic here, though. If you issue too many of these, the public starts ignoring them. This is doubly true if the alerts turn out to be false.

That’s why two hoax Amber Alerts in September (one in Miami and the other in North Carolina) are a big deal. And it’s a disturbing trend. Here’s data from 2004:

Out of 233 Amber Alerts issued last year, at least 46 were made for children who were lost, had run away or were the subjects of hoaxes and misunderstandings, according to the Scripps Howard study, which used records from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Police also violated federal and state guidelines by issuing dozens of vague alerts with little information upon which the public can act. The study found that 23 alerts were issued last year even though police didn’t know the name of the child who supposedly had been abducted. Twenty-five alerts were issued without complete details about the suspect or a description of the vehicle used in the abduction.

Think of it as a denial-of-service attack against the real world.

Posted on October 5, 2007 at 11:00 AMView Comments

Police to Monitor Indian Cyber-Cafes

It stops terrorism, you see:

Vijay Mukhi, President of the Foundation for Information Security and Technology says, “The terrorists know that if they use machines at home, they can be caught. Cybercafes therefore give them anonymity.”

“The police needs to install programs that will capture every key stroke at regular interval screen shots, which will be sent back to a server that will log all the data.

The police can then keep track of all communication between terrorists no matter, which part of the world they operate from.This is the only way to patrol the net and this is how the police informer is going to look in the e-age,” added Mukhi.

Is anyone talking about the societal implications of this sort of wholesale surveillance? Not really:

“The question we need to ask ourselves is whether a breach of privacy is more important or the security of the nation. I do not think the above question needs an answer,” said Mukhi.

“As long as personal computers are not being monitored. If monitoring is restricted to public computers, it is in the interest of security,” said National Vice President, People Union for Civil Liberty.

EDITED TO ADD (10/24): This may be a hoax.

Posted on September 5, 2007 at 1:00 PMView Comments

Joke That'll Get You Arrested

Don’t say that I didn’t warn you:

If you are sitting next to someone who irritates you on a plane or train…

1. Quietly and calmly open up your laptop case.
2. Remove your laptop.
3. Boot it.
4. Make sure the person who won’t leave you alone can see the screen.
5. Open your email client to this message.
6. Close your eyes and tilt your head up to the sky.
7. Then hit this link: http://www.thecleverest.com/countdown.swf

If you try it, post what happened in comments.

Posted on May 19, 2007 at 10:16 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.