Note: This story was last updated at 9:25 a.m. Nov. 19.
The red light camera scam that authorities warned about on Monday evening was actually a training exercise intended to only be used internally at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The e-mails were created as part of ORAU’s cybersecurity training, and they were meant to help educate employees about so-called “phishing” scams.
The e-mails told recipients they had been captured on camera running a red light and had to pay a $50 fine. They instructed recipients to pay a fine through a PayPal link and warned them they could be subject to an extra $95 fee if they failed to do so.
The e-mails were only sent to ORAU employees, Communications Director Pam Bonee said Tuesday morning. Any employees who clicked on the links in the e-mails would be directed to a website and given more information about phishing.
“It was not a scam,” Bonee said. “It was an internal ORAU training exercise.”
Bonee said ORAU is still trying to figure out how the e-mails were sent to the Oak Ridge Police Department. It’s possible some ORAU employees called to verify them with the ORPD, which has a photo enforcement officer. ORPD Chief Jim Akagi sent out a media alert on Monday evening.
Bonee said the police department was not aware of the exercise, and ORAU hadn’t coordinated with them because the exercise was only meant to be internal.
She said ORAU’s Security and Safeguards Department conducts the exercises about every 30 days to protect computer and system integrity.