Monday, June 18, 2007

low-tech gets hi-tech


In May when my cousin was here for a visit, one of her concerns was charging purchases using her debit card at gas stations. No, it wasn’t that her card would not be honored; rather, the concern was perhaps the fact that the staff at our gas stations – greasy and poor lit as they are in some branches, the stations – might commit identity theft, whether intentionally or otherwise, as may have been the unfortunate experience of some of her friends and acquaintances back in the US.

Of course we assured her that incidence of card fraud was nearly unheard of in Manila. Ok, that may not be entirely true. But at least for us whom she was with, none among our circle of friends have so far been victims of such incidents.

Identity theft have been rarely reported in the news; some cases have been topics for late-night TV docu-series that told of MOs at ATMs or swiped payments made by shoppers in malls or department stores using credit cards, but even these establishments have put in place certain measures of verification prior to receipt of payment.

So, it does not mean that consumers are safer because we do not seem so hi-tech and covert – even the Love Bug author was supposedly found to be not much of a techie himself.

However, there is a bigger danger to unconcealed illegal activities in that the victims are far at risk because they face direct assault to their persons and properties. And when the low-tech lowlifes decide to go hi-tech, the consequences are instant, unsavory, and more damaging.

The irony to low-tech crimes on hi-tech properties – laptops in this case – is that the items stolen are [1] of no use to the thief [2] because the thieves themselves may be computer-illiterate. This does not mean, however, that the thieves are totally technologically challenged, as they reaffirm the dialogue on Invention. Therefore, in being so challenged by the prospect of getting their hands on a piece of technology, they resort to primitive means: smashing windows, unhooking car locks with wires, distraction (“What time is it?”) &mdash the usual, low-tech MOs, ho-hum, but it seems to work effectively. The overall irony, though, is that these thefts have been occurring more regularly lately, yet none have been reported in the news.

Could it be that the victims are not wont to bother filing a police report? Could it be because some see stolen laptops as merely a case of losing expensive toys and nothing more? I think what is missed out is the fact that laptops have become the equipment of choice for serious work by some people – no, make that most people here in the Philippines – my friends included. And what an investment in time, money and productivity it took them to make this choice possible. Caveat emptor!
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Culled Stats:
• The price of a workhorse laptop (Apple or PC) is almost equivalent to a second-hand car.
• The most incidents of stolen laptops are from unattended vehicles parked in public places.
• The second most popular places for stolen laptops are in public cafés.
• There have been rare cases of Macintosh laptops being returned to their owners because they were password-protected.

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