Confusing Carsons causes inaccurate information |

Confusing Carsons causes inaccurate information

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

Al Kramer was surfing the Internet and ran across some startling information: an article reporting that Carson City’s general fund account had been hacked into and $450,000 removed by unknown cyberthieves.

Kramer knew it had to be wrong. He wouldn’t have had to find out from a news story. He’s the city treasurer.

It turns out the incident actually happened in Carson, Calif. Every keystroke the treasurer of that California city made on a laptop computer was monitored by the hacker, who arranged for money to be put in bank accounts in Michigan and North Carolina.

“We have done things for Carson City that would make it extremely difficult for this to happen,” he said. That includes purchasing state-of-the-art software to protect this information, Kramer said about the incident.

Many Web sites have correct versions of the incident that occurred about two weeks ago. Others, however, have erroneous headlines and introductions that refer to “Carson City” as the place where the money was stolen.

The Web site where Kramer had seen an inaccurate story is called Help Net Security. A phone number with a Northern California area code was answered by someone who said he was in Croatia.

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“We didn’t write it,” said Berislav Kucan, marketing director for Help Net Security and several other high-tech publications. “We get our news stories from the wire and the large media outlets.”

He said he was surprised there was more than one city with Carson in its name.

Carson, Calif., has a population of slightly less than 90,000 and is south of Los Angeles. It wasn’t named after Kit Carson but after one of its early influential residents, John Manuel Carson. Both communities had a place called Carson Mall, but the California city’s shopping center was renamed South Bay Pavilion at Carson.

There is confusion about which Carson is which and no wonder. For example, along with Carson City, Nev., there’s a Carson City, Mich. And while there is a Carson, Calif., there’s also a Carson, Iowa and Carson, Miss. Adding to the confusion is another similarly named place: Fort Carson, Colo.

Carson City, Mich., has a population of 1,200 people and is 45 minutes from Lansing, the state capital.

“We do get some calls from people wanting Carson City, Nev.,” said Cindy Schafer, assistant comptroller for the small Midwestern community. “They get the number from information. … I sort it out.”

While it was initially thought the thieves targeting the city in California got away with $450,000, it turns out about only half of the money, roughly $230,000, was successfully moved, said Lt. Rocky Costa, with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He also is involved with a multiagency law enforcement organization that targets cybercrimes.

While “the octopus has grown arms,” Costa said. “I think it’s a solvable case.”

The investigation is continuing as authorities in California do computer forensics and track down information about the accounts where the money was transferred.

“I’m glad it wasn’t us,” Kramer said. “But I’m not laughing.”

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.