Tag Archives: how-to

Use Google Images to Protect Against Craigslist Scams

If you’re ever interested in buying electronics such as phones or cameras off Craigslist, it can’t hurt to use Google’s search by image option before actually agreeing to the meet/purchase.  This is simply a matter of copying and pasting the Craigslist image URL into Google Images (Google also allows you to upload the actual image file if you’ve already downloaded it to your computer) and then hitting the search by image option, which as of today is represented by the little image of a camera at the end of the Google Images search field.

This will at least allow you to see if the product image in the Craigslist ad has simply been copied off the Internet.  If that’s the case, the seller may be trying to lure you into a meeting for other purposes (robbery, etc.). Of course, it’s entirely possible it’s a legitimate seller who just pulled a photo of the product off the Internet rather than actually take a photo of it, but since virtually all cell phones have cameras now, it’s easy (and probably more logical) for a seller to take a quick snap of the actual stuff for sale.  In that case, ask the seller for a photo of the real item you’ll be buying.

The Five Weirdest Smuggling Busts of All Time

DiamondsOn the recent news that an Indian businessman was found to have $16,000 worth of gold nuggets lodged in his lower intestine (he supposedly went to the doctor complaining of stomach pain as a result of swallowing a bottle cap) Salon published a short feature on the five weirdest smuggling busts of all time. They include: smuggling suitcases full of turtles; smuggling monkeys in one’s pants; similar to the gold nuggets but on a much grander scale, smuggling $2.3 million worth of diamonds (220 in all) by swallowing them; smuggling bird eggs in one’s underwear; and smuggling iguanas in a prosthetic leg. All creative, but all ultimately caught.

The 5 weirdest smuggling busts of all time [via Salon]

Mapping Gang Structure Using Phone Records

Log-Analysis-SoftwareSoftware called LogAnalysis could help law enforcement map the structure of a criminal gang by analyzing the mobile phone records of the gang’s members. This is not the first time software has been used to do so, as Orca has been used by major police departments to analyze arrest records to understand relationships between criminals. The LogAnalysis software was develped by Indiana University researchers led by Emilio Ferrara, and it uses call records and other data to map gang hierarchy using “social network theory.” As funny as it may sound, this theory can be neatly summarized by saying that those who make the most calls are likely at the bottom of the hierarchy, while those who make the least calls are at the top (apparently even the top leadership in a criminal gang is as aloof as in legitimate organizations). Apparently, at least some of the group’s researchers are from Sicily, leading to some reasonable assumptions regarding what criminal organization they have been using as a base for their work!
How to Detect Criminal Gangs Using Mobile Phone Data [via MIT Technology Review]

Can You Buy Your Way Out of a CA Speeding Ticket?

In California, by making a donation to the 11-99 Foundation, you can get license plate frames that say “CHP 11-99 Foundation,” which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Whether this means you can get out of a speeding ticket when pulled over has been a matter of some discussion.

On Officer.com, in a discussion about 11-99 frames (and fakes) mentioned earlier, a number of cops weighed in. Priceonomics is still trying to verify identities, so their statements could be fabrications. But it presents an intriguing perspective of officers’ potential views on the 11-99 frames.

A number of cops reported ignoring the license plate frames when they decided whether to pull over and ticket drivers. One cop describes a driver whose “first words” were about the stickers indicating the donations he made. When the driver insisted that they required big donations, the cop replied, “Well, paying for these citations shouldn’t be a problem.”

But some answers indicate that people have reason to believe that the frames will help them avoid tickets. In addition to the frames, the CHP 11-99 Foundation gives out membership cards to big donors. In reference to secondhand or fake frames, one cop wrote, “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you, no love will be shown.” Another added, “Ya gotta have more than just a license plate frame or a sticker.” The implication from these officers seems to be that buying a fake license plate frame is useless, but real donors will receive some leniency.

Can You Buy A License to Speed? [via Priceonomics]

Glitter Nail Polish is the Best Tamper Proof Seal


This is such a low-cost yet highly effective strategy to be able to detect if someone has messed with your laptop. Specially designed tamper proof seals and locks for laptops can be easily defeated by someone who knows what he’s doing, and you will never be the wiser. However, by borrowing a trick from astronomers called blink comparison, painting something as simple as glitter nail polish on the seam where your laptop opens can let you tell if someone has used it without your knowledge.

The idea is to create a seal that is impossible to copy. Glitter nail polish, once applied, has what effectively is a random pattern. Once painted over screws or onto stickers placed over ports, it is difficult to replicate once broken. However, reapplication of a similar-looking blob (or paint stripe, or crappy sticker) might be enough to fool the human eye. To be sure, the experts recommend taking a picture of the laptop with the seals applied before leaving it alone, taking another photo upon returning and using a software program to shift rapidly between the two images to compare them. Even very small differences – a screw that is in a very slightly different position, or glitter nail polish that has a very slightly different pattern of sparkle – will be evident. Astronomers use this technique to detect small changes in the night sky.

And with cell phone cameras now ubiquitous, you can quickly and easily take the before and after photos with your mobile device.

Don’t Want Your Laptop Tampered With? Just Add Glitter Nail Polish [via Wired]

An Ex-Cop’s Guide to Not Getting Arrested


Here’s an interesting article on psychological tactics individuals can use to avoid being arrested by law enforcement. In his book, Arrest-Proof Yourself, former Miami-Dade police officer and FBI Agent Dale Carlson shares his four golden rules, of which the most important appears to “be boring.” Some of it is common sense, but it’s still interesting reading nonetheless. An excerpt:

The rule extends to activities that are perfectly legal. “In 21st century America,” he writes, “as long as you’re not committing a crime, you should be able to wear the wildest clothes you want, roam the streets when you feel like it, and lean on a light post or hang out at some wild club if it amuses you.” “Should” is the key word. In reality, cops love hassling people who stand out, even though it’s not illegal to, say, have a Buckeyes bumper sticker that looks like a pot leaf. If you drive a sports car or a lowrider, you’re more likely to attract a cop’s attention than if you drive, say, a gray Honda Civic. Same goes for clothes, hairstyles, tone and volume of voice. Be boring.

So try to blend in. Beat cops who patrol the same routes day after day are “incredibly attuned to incongruity.” But don’t be too reactive when you see cops. “Police are visual predators,” Carson writes. “Any sudden change in motion, speed, direction or behavior immediately attracts their attention.” That means even if you’re doing something you think might attract a cop’s attention, quickly doing something else will attract even more attention. “Don’t alter the pattern,” Carson advises. “Keep on keeping on.”

An Ex-Cop’s Guide to Not Getting Arrested [via The Atlantic Cities]

Survival: How to Cook With Your Coffee Maker


If you are a student in a dorm room, a soldier deployed in theater, or just limited to what is available in your hotel room while on a trip, a drip coffeemaker can still adequately serve your needs for basic cooking. There are three main techniques:

1. Steam: The basket at the top is a great place to steam vegetables. You can throw in broccoli, cauliflower or any vegetable that cooks in about the same time as those.
2. Poach: The carafe at the bottom serves as a simple vessel for poaching fish and chicken. You can also use it to hard-boil eggs or make couscous and oatmeal.
3. Grill: This technique is a bit more advanced — and time-consuming. But if you’re really itching for a grilled cheese sandwich or a cinnamon bun in a motel room, the coffee maker’s burner can serve as a miniature grill.

Coffee Maker Cooking: Brew Up Your Next Dinner [via NPR]