Monday, July 10, 2017

Gas station skimmer theft in White Plains, NY at Exxon Mobile station pump one run by Chestnut Mart.

White Plains, a city of about 50,000, is the county seat for the mostly affluent Westchester County, NY, which borders New York City to the north.

A White Plains resident was the victim of having his credit card number, but not the card, stolen while trying to pump gasoline into his car. The fact that the card itself was not stolen is significant.

Thursday July 6, 2017 at 2:58 PM the victim's credit card failed in its first attempt at the gas station at:

Exxon Mobile run by Chestnut Mart
174 Westchester Avenue (corner of South Kensico)
White Plains, NY 10601

Westchester Avenue is a very busy street and pump one, while one of the furthest from the Chestnut Mart convenience store that administers this gas station and others in the county, is clearly visible to MANY cars, including those stopped at that traffic light intersection.

The credit card was accepted on a second attempt and gas was pumped. The receipt for the first attempt had this URL on the back:

The victim received an email message from his bank at 7:26 PM that same day, about 3.5 hours after the credit card number was probably stolen:

Subject: Account Alert: Credit Card Used Online, by Phone or by Mail

Account: Credit card ending in nnnn
Amount: $468.00
On: July 06, 2017

This transaction occurred either online, by phone, by mail or at a physical location where the merchant keyed in your card number.

If you don't recognize this transaction, please call us at 800-nnn-nnnn

The victim called his bank about 11:45 PM and the call went past midnight. The bank stopped payment, cancelled the credit card number and mailed a new credit card with a new number in a cardboard envelope via UPS, which arrived Saturday, July 8.

The next morning the victim went to website and clearly informed Exxon Mobile of the theft and asked to be contacted but the oil company has not done so.

Before 7:00 AM July 7 the victim also went to the Chestnut Mart convenience store at the gas station and briefly spoke to a young male person behind the counter. When informed that a credit card had been stolen, he quickly took out multiple cards. When informed that only the number had been stolen but not the physical card, he showed no concern or interest.

The crook foolishly tried to buy tickets at After an exchange of messages with people at that online website located in New York City:
- How could any online transaction have occurred without the three digit security code on the back of the credit card and also without the expiration month/year of the card? That question was never even addressed by the people.
- Even after supplying the cancelled last four digits of the credit card to, they could find nothing in their database to indicate what tickets the crook attempted to purchase. Really?

Presumably, these would be digital tickets and the crook would need to either sell to another or use his own smartphone to gain entry to the event. Any competent and timely action should have been able to identify the tickets and phone resulting in either an arrest or really good information for further investigation and crime prevention.

The New York State Attorney General was informed via an online complaint form and that office sent this email acknowledgement:

date: Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 10:20 AM
subject: Attention: Notification of Consumer Frauds Complaint Received

The FBI was informed at No reply yet. The FBI online form requested the credit card account number and it was supplied as that number had been deactivated.

The victim tried to report the crime to the Westchester County District Attorney but ...

Westchester County website:
Westchester County DA Website:

The DA has his own website. Wait, it gets worse:

... download, print and complete the compaint form...

The form MUST be mailed to the District Attorney's office to the address on the form.

We do not accept complaints via fax or e-mail.


Yes, complaint is spelled incorrectly on the Westchester County DA website. And the Westchester County DA does not even accept a fax, you know, the way people could order a pizza in 1985. Many of us have not had a printer this millennium.

A message about the Westchester County DA was sent to the Westchester County executive and the Westchester County legislator representing the City of White Plains.

Gas station skimmer theft rising

to: Rob Astorino <>,
Benjamin Boykin <>
date: Sat, Jul 8, 2017 at 9:38 AM
subject: Gas station skimmer theft rising

County Executive and legislator,

Hey, tell the District Attorney. Impossible to contact DA office other than by phone. Complaints must be on DA paper form.

Oh, I was a victim of this in White Plains. Maybe the county legislators can hold DA accountable.

I just filled out an online complaint with the FBI. Yesterday I did that with New York State AG.

Westchester County should be embarrassed.


Additional messages were sent to County Executive Astorino and legislator Boykin with more information, including:

A quick search finds plenty of jurisdictions where they inspect pumps and put stickers on them and educate constituents. I read that this crime is sometimes used to launder money, so it's not just some low level creep. And the businesses that run these gas stations, both the oil company and the convenience store, need to be held accountable and liable. Let them pay for those tickets charged to my account, not the bank, which just passes the cost along to all of us.

No reply by either.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nextgen battery heated and smoked without outside electrical current.

I have two TVs in the same room using Verizon FIOS multi room DVR. The FIOS remote control is not paired to a FIOS box, so changing a channel for one TV, changes it for both. Same for pause, FF, etc. Not what I had in mind.

A friend described a solution that he got three years ago:

This device converts a regular remote into a radio signal remote. You then cover the light signal on one remote and one box with black tape and one remote is now light-activated, the other one radio activated, so they don't interfere with each other.

I checked it out and ordered the Next Generation Remote Control Extender directly from

After it arrived I wrote this to my friend:

I put one of its little batteries in the base (flying saucer) to charge the battery and before I could plug it into the electrical outlet, the battery started to heat up and was smoking. I had a difficult time extracting the battery and it was HOT.

I never plugged in the "flying saucer".

I then wrote to Nextgen:

order number is nnnn: battery smoked!

from: Ken
date: Sun, May 7, 2017 at 4:43 PM

I received your product yesterday: Remote Control Extender.

This morning I put one of your little batteries in the base (flying saucer) to charge the battery and before I could plug the flying saucer into the electrical outlet, the battery started to heat up and was smoking. SMOKING! I had a difficult time extracting the battery because it was HOT.

I also inserted the single IR (infrared) emitter cord into the back of the unit before inserting the battery. The bottom compartment of the flying saucer has an A-B-C switch that was set to B. I did not see any instructions for it and left it at B.

I never plugged the "flying saucer" into any electrical outlet. Still haven't. Your special battery and/or your flying saucer base are defective.

​I left a voice message for Bob at 727-834-9400.

What the heck?

I never spoke to Bob, the big expert at Nextgen, after the battery smoked. Nextgen did not seem alarmed, which I found alarming. No explanation was provided. Today I received my refund.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Verizon FIOS v. Cablevision Optimum "tax" & fees, especially for voice service.

It's got to be public servants sticking it to semi-monopoly Verizon. The difference is stark, especially for voice service.

Comparison of "tax" & fees for current Verizon FIOS and that for Cablevision Optimum 7/16/16:

Verizon Surcharges & Fees What is this?voiceVerizonOptimum
NY Universal Service Fund$0.12taxes and fees$4.03
NY State and Local Tax Surcharges$1.87Phone
Federal Universal Service Fee$3.15$3.15NY Excise Taxes$0.74
Federal Subscriber Line Charge$7.75$7.75Sales Tax$1.35
VLD Carrier Cost Recovery Charge$1.54?Verizon Long DistanceE-911 Fee$0.35
VLD Long Distance Administrative Charge$0.91?Verizon Long DistanceFederal Universal Service Fund$0.47
Video Franchise Fee$6.83Total Taxes & Fees$6.94
Regulatory Recovery Fee - Federal$0.08
PEG Grant Fee$1.00
Regional Sports Network Fee$2.91
Fios TV Broadcast Fee$1.75
NY Municipal Construction Surcharge$1.35

Tax, etc. on land lines: "Verizon Surcharges and Other Charges & Credits SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 2014

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Private Tunnel VPN: trying it. Hey, what the heck.

Makes as much sense as the wacky commercial VPN service providers mentioned in previous posts.

Private Tunnel VPN, of course, does not support the Chromebook but the "pricing" makes it reasonable for the device I'm most likely to use outside of home: my tablet.

Setup was mysterious and any comments would not be helpful to another human. Check it out.

VPN service providers: global empires or two guys in their underwear churning out "locations" on 1 or 2 servers?

This post is more concerned with where they work, not whether they work. They don't, at least not on a Chromebook.

VPN: do any of these damn things work? TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017

A couple of years ago I tried PureVPN. I wrote a bunch of posts. You can click on the VPN label to the right to read them.

This week I tried two more such services ...

I wanted to be able to protect a Chromebook and an Android tablet.

ExpressVPN (based in Bermuda) ... free trial did not extend to the Chromebook app. Dropped free trial. (before trying to pay.

NordVPN (based in Panama; billed to Latvia) ...

My bank challenged both (PureVPN and NordVPN). I should have taken the hint.

Finally, how the heck would you know what, if any, protection they are providing? Do they really have servers all over the planet or are they a couple of guys in their underwear with a server hooked up to a generator? Are some a giant scam that uses customer info to rob them even more blind than the money charged for "service"?


​502 finds on this page for using browser function. Lends credence to my two guys in their underwear theory. It's the only domain I noticed.

I'm guessing that they simply defined 502 IP addresses on this one server and provide them to paying customers. Maybe like creating control cards in a JCL deck running an IBM utility in years gone by.

Organization: Domains By Proxy, LLC
Mailing Address:, Scottsdale AZ 85260 US
​​, Scottsdale AZ 85260 US

​So is PureVPN un Arizona or in Hong Kong as they present?​

Organization: Go Daddy Operating Company, LLC
Mailing Address: 14455 N Hayden Rd Suite 219, Scottsdale Arizona 85260 US

It gets curiouser and curiouser.

Domains by Proxy (DBP) is an Internet company owned by GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons. It offers domain privacy services through partner domain registrars such as Go Daddy and Wild West Domains.

Over 9,850,000 domain names currently use the Domains by Proxy service.

OK, so maybe PureVPN has two servers, one for each guy in his underwear.


Wow, so many locations. Yeah, but only one domain.

Two different guys in their underwear.

Luxembourg, not Arizona like PureVPN, which uses GoDaddy.

Name:Whois Privacy
Organization:Whois Privacy (enumDNS dba)
Street:BPM 333868, Rue Gabriel Lippman 34
Postal Code:5365


Hides its domain names behind country icons.

Name:Domain Admin
Organization:Whois Privacy Corp.
Street:Ocean Centre, Montagu Foreshore, East Bay Street
State:New Providence


All three service providers I considered present a choice of "locations", suggesting that they have servers there, but I think it's just many IP addresses that pretend to be at those locations.

It seems like deceptive advertising. Too bad reviews and oversight don't seem to know or care.

PureVPN: OK with Windows 10 and Android 7 but still fails with Chromebook.

For the Chromebook I twice tried the generic instructions:

Then from a chat:

You are requested to please use server address:



I tried All three attempts had the same result: connected, then dropped after a few minutes.

But it got me thinking about the essence of these VPN service providers and whether they are two guys in their underwear renting a server or two. More in a subsequent post.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

PureVPN being tried again at its invitation.

Previous post:

VPN: do any of these damn things work? TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017

A couple of years ago I tried PureVPN. I wrote a bunch of posts. You can click on the VPN label to the right to read them.

This week I tried two more such services ... modest objective: protect my devices when away from home from garden variety pain in the ass intruders...

I wanted to be able to protect a Chromebook and an Android tablet...

ExpressVPN (based in Bermuda) ...

NordVPN (based in Panama; billed to Latvia) ...

Do they really have servers all over the planet or are they a couple of guys in their underwear with a server hooked up to a generator? Are some a giant scam that uses customer info to rob them even more blind than the money charged for "service"?

The link was sent to the three companies:

date:Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 6:43 PM
subject:Tech Thoughts: VPN: do any of these damn things work?

Surprisingly, PureVPN replied and offered a three day trial. I accepted.

EpressVPN has an app for installing its stuff on a Chromebook. NordVPN and PureVPN offer instructions, which are their screenshots implementing generic Google instructions. Here are the links:

Only PureVPN mentions: 
  • Check Save identity and password
NordVPN does not show that on its screen shot.

All three seem the same.

Last night I got on my Chromebook as a guest. I then successfully implemented PureVPN. The IP address that it used to represent y computer was in Chicago. I learned this from independent software.

After a while I stopped using my Chromebook and when I went back to it a couple of hours later, the VPN connection had dropped, according to a Chromebook message.

Feb. 16, 2017, 9:00AM loading PureVPN app (5.6.0) onto tablet running Android 7.1.1. It displays as "Best Free VPN". It's not free.

I'm prompted for ID and password, then mode and I select privacy.

I appear to be connected. It shows United States and an 108 IP address, which traces to Bayside, which is local.

With no guidance and after viewing settings, I click on the plug icon, figuring that it will disconnect but instead it brings up location options. I click the icon to select location. I select Italy and when I find my way back to the main screen it shows in the lower left: Italy and a 172 IP address.

When I ask Google for my IP address, it initially shows the Bayside address and "Your public IP address". However, shows 172 ... Milan, Lombardi (IT). also shows Milan.

OK, so PureVPN has me in Italy. Let's see how long the connection lasts.

Feb. 16, 2017, 9:30AM Windows 10: From the PureVPN website, I'm downloading the app. Installing. Stealth. OpenVPN. Blah, blah, blah. It's been "finishing" for almost twenty minutes; appears to be stuck.

Oh, in another window there's a prompt for approval to install:


I clicked OK. C++ finished and then so did PureVPN.

I logged in and selected "security and privacy" as I had done with the Android app. Then I requested a server in Canada. The PureVPN Windows app shows that my real IP address is hidden and that Montreal is were my IP address is. Cool.

Now let's see how long these connections last. Android is still in Milan, Italy since 9:20 AM.

I also need to try my Chromebook again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

VPN: do any of these damn things work?

A couple of years ago I tried PureVPN. I wrote a bunch of posts. You can click on the VPN label to the right to read them.

This week I tried two more such services, this time with a much more modest objective: protect my devices when away from home from garden variety pain in the ass intruders. I'm not concerned about the NSA. In fact I hope that the NSA is running some of these sites to track bad guys.

I wanted to be able to protect a Chromebook and an Android tablet.

ExpressVPN (based in Bermuda):
- supposedly the only service with a Chromebook app
- seven day free trial
- free trial did not extend to the Chromebook app
Dropped free trial.

NordVPN (based in Panama; billed to Latvia):
- no free trial; had to pay to play; promised refund in 5-7 days; will dispute with bank ASAP anyway
- detailed instructions to deal with a Chromebook
- Chromebook instructions did not work; chat and email advice descended further and further into tech hell where no customer should be asked to go
- even the Android app failed to connect.

My bank challenged both. I should have taken the hint.

Finally, how the heck would you know what, if any, protection they are providing? Do they really have servers all over the planet or are they a couple of guys in their underwear with a server hooked up to a generator? Are some a giant scam that uses customer info to rob them even more blind than the money charged for "service"?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cablevision (Optimum) is not good with cable cards.

Message sent:

to:James Dolan
date:Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 6:24 AM
subject:Cable card status.

There is no bind between your cable card and my TiVo Bolt despite conversations with Optimum support on three consecutive days last week, which followed two visits by Optimum techs to fix a cable card problem in my Panasonic TV; they spent almost all of the time talking on the phone to Optimum support, like I did for the TiVo.

The TV cable card failed again last night for the third time since the second visit by an Optimum tech. Conclusion: Cablevision (Optimum) is not good with cable cards.

Status: Not Ready

I've been dealing with the TV cable card failing for months and I know exactly how to restore service by myself: pop the card, wait for channels to load, then hit return on my TV menu. Annoying, but at least it works. But the TiVo Bolt has never been operational since I tried to activate it five days ago.

After the first two days of talking to Cablevision (Optimum) support people, who merely go through what pops up on their cumputer screens, TiVo support had me go through some TiVo Bolt screens to confirm that the bind had not been done. The screen shot above was sent to Cablevision (Optimum). No doubt Cablevision (Optimum) will want to have me reserve half of yet another day to have a Cablevision (Optimum) tech person visit and talk to Cablevision (Optimum) support people on the phone as they stumble through various stuff. No thanks.

Obviously, cable cards are not well understood by people who work for Cablevision (Optimum). It's old flakey technology that was forced on the "cable" industry by the FCC to give consumers the option of not having to pay exorbitant monthly fees to rent set top boxes from the service providers. But if you're going to pretend that you are actually supporting something, at least have the professional pride to put a little effort into it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cablevision (Optimum) struck out! Verizon FIOS is coming back!

Cablevision (Optimum) "tier two" support for CableCards called back. Steve was a bit ornery and could not bind the Cablevision (Optimum) CableCard to my TiVo Bolt. See two previous posts. OK, thanks, Steve, you continued the Cablevision (Optimum) tradition and made my decision easy.

Verizon will take a crack at the Bolt when it returns its service next week. Can't wait. Goodbye Cablevision (Optimum)!

Cablevision (Optimum) trying to wrestle CableCard to the ground in TiVo Bolt.

I decided to try the TiVo Bolt because:

Cablevision (Optimum) DVR fast forward is crude, lacking what Verizon provides: skip forward 30 seconds. THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2016

Cablevision (Optimum) CableCard support has been consistently lame.

I've had a Cablevision (Optimum) CableCard in my ten year old Panasonic TV for the four months I've been back with Cablevision (Optimum), partly to try its many WiFi hotspots available to subscribers, about the only attribute that distinguishes it from its local rival, Verizon FIOS. I hardly use those hotspots but today I was able to connect my Chromebook; Cablevision (Optimum) has no instructions for the ChromeOS, nor for Windows10, which probably also works. That makes dumping Cablevision (Optimum) and returning to Verizon FIOS a bit difficult.

But, since the Cablevision (Optimum) fast forward (FF) functions are so horrendous, that's what will happen if Cablevision (Optimum) strikes out. The CableCard in my TV has given me a lot of trouble and in the last few days I've had two Cablevision (Optimum) techs here to fix that. After spending half the day waiting for them and more hours watching them talk on the phone to Cablevision (Optimum) people who may or may not know more about CableCards, I have refused to have more Cablevision (Optimum) people come here to fix the Cablevision (Optimum) CableCard in my new TiVo Bolt DVR, which supposedly has lots of cool FF functions. Unfortunately, TiVo relies entirely on a CableCard supplied by my service provider, Cablevision (Optimum).

There needs to be a "bind" established between the CableCard and the device, in this case the TiVo Bolt. I got a new multi-stream Cablevision (Optimum) CableCard two days ago and have spent three days now trying to get Cablevision (Optimum) to properly bind those two. I'm supposed to get a call within 24 hours from what is probably the Cablevision (Optimum) version of tier support for its CableCards.

If that fails, Cablevision (Optimum) will have struck out and my next call will be to Verizon to have FIOS re-established. Then I'll give Verizon a crack at getting the TiVo Bolt to work. If not, return the Bolt and use the acceptable but less cool Verizon FF functions.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cablevision (Optimum) DVR fast forward is crude, lacking what Verizon provides: skip forward 30 seconds.

When I switched a few months ago I noticed it right away, that the Cablevision (Optimum) remote control lacked the button that was on my Verizon FIOS remote defined as "jumps forward 30 seconds in the program you are watching". In the Verizon menu you can switch from 30 to 10 seconds.

Why does this matter? If you're a candidate for "cord cutting", it doesn't. Those people mostly care about watching movies, basically anything but sports. That content can now be obtained ad hoc from various content providers and all they need is a connection to the Internet, which makes the term "cord cutting" silly. It's not subscribing to TV service.

But if you watch team sports (baseball, football, basketball) you need TV service. Black out rules limit or make very difficult watching local teams with generic sports packages. Switching channels is close to impossible with streaming video and when replaying, fast forwarding is essential.

Which brings us to the specific topic of this post: why does Cablevision (Optimum) provide only a single crude DVR fast forward function?

Verizon has the crude fast forward, too, but even there it's better. Cablevision (Optimum) seems to skip ahead and show a single still frame rather than speed up the frames. Increasing the speed of the Cablevision (Optimum) just makes it speed past the end of commercials even further. You then must back up, causing you to view what has happened. This is pretty annoying if watching a drama but for sports showing what happened is really not good.

Most specifically, the problem is not the commercials during sporting events. It's the dead time between plays, especially the 300 intervals of dead time between pitches in a baseball game. You've got to skip at least 10 seconds or try to get by with skipping 30 seconds and watch the next pitch right away. It's the only civilized way to watch a single baseball game.

I tried for months to use the crude Cablevision (Optimum) fast forwarding but it is not even as good as that provided on the old VCRs. I had bought a second Verizon remote control and still have it. Both the Cablevision (Optimum) and Verizon remotes have the same color function keys: A, B, C, D. On the Cablevision (Optimum) the green D key is not used. I tried unsuccessfully to "program" it to perform the 30 skip fast forward. I held down SEL and D to gain access but that did not work. To tell the remote the type of TV you have you hold down SEL and TV/power on the Cablevision (Optimum) remote. That causes the O. button (that BIG round one in the middle) to flash and then you can enter the secret code for your TV. The installer person usually does this for you.

Internet search was fruitless. There are such instructions on how to "hack" remotes for other DVR type providers but not for Cablevision (Optimum). I could not find a manual for the Cablevision (Optimum) Samsung SMT-C5320 set top box and DVR I have. Nor would Cablevision (Optimum) provide me with a digital manual for it.

Next I sent a message to Cablevision (Optimum) asking them to "program" the green D key to skip 30 seconds for me, for everyone, or tell me how I could do it. There followed a thread of messages and even a voice conversation. Cablevision (Optimum) repeated what a great idea I had and that it had been passed on. If Cablevision (Optimum) actually wanted to provide this function, the damn button would be on the remote.

The remote for my ten year old Panasonic HDTV has the skip fast forward button but I could not figure out how to associate the Panasonic remote with the new Samsung box from Cablevision (Optimum). I even considered using the Verizon remote but couldn't figure out that either.

I asked Cablevision (Optimum) about my using a universal remote control. Eventually, they sent a link on their website that showed four.

Here is a list of some brands and models of universal remote controls that will work with Optimum equipment:
  • RCA 5 Device Universal Cable Remote
  • URC SR3 Big Button Universal Remote Control
  • Universal Remote Control – 6-Device Preprogrammed Learning Remote
  • General Electric 24959 8-in-1 Universal Remote Control
Almost all universal remotes that were manufactured since 2001 are compatible with our digital cable boxes. These remotes may be purchased through most electronic retailers. While many of the universal remote controls available will work with Optimum equipment, we recommend using the remote controls provided by Optimum. Using remote controls provided by Optimum ensures that all functions will work properly.

However, when I simply asked for the Samsung code that such a remote would need during setup, Cablevision (Optimum) declined to provide that, telling me to find that in the manual of the universal remote control. In other words, I had to buy it first, then check to see whether there was a code for the new Cablevision (Optimum) Samsung box. And even then, I could only expect the universal to control the functions provided by Cablevision (Optimum), which do not include the skip fast forward.

Here is my reply this morning to the most recent "apology" from a Cablevision techie telling me what a great idea I had in suggesting that the green D button be programmed to provide the skip fast forward function:

It's not a great idea. It's basic stuff, which Verizon has. I'm guessing that Cablevision is getting more money from content providers to make skipping commercials as difficult as possible. Other Cablevision techs have suggested four different universal remotes when I asked about them but decline to supply the code for the Samsung box you distribute. Without that the universal remote cannot be set up to control your Samsung box. See how all this comes around to Cablevision trying to squeeze more money out of things?

Oh, and the Android app provided by Cablevision (Optimum) lacks any fast forward function, not even the crude one provided on the Cablevision (Optimum) remote control. You can't make up stuff like this.