I am not a geek. I do not have one geeky bone in my body, but I am in awe of those of my acquaintance who can move around the cyber world with a minimum of “clicks”. I have also had a credit card ‘compromised’, to use the current terminology for theft, but I later forgot about it as the bank reimbursed my account and sent me a new card.
What I had not given any thought to was just where did the bank get the money from to move it back into the account? In the end, the bank recoups money via insurance schemes, but there is a limit to this. The simple way is to then increase banking fees paid by their customers. In other words, we end up paying for the credit card fraud on ourselves by ourselves! This is pure and simple criminal theft.
The book I chose from the Bookazine Big C Extra shelf was called Dark Market (ISBN 978-0-099-54655-9, Vintage, 2011) by Misha Glenny and attracted me with the cover promising, “How hackers became the new Mafia”. Not being a geek, my interest was piqued. Just how much criminal influence did these faceless people exert? How much money do they rip off the unsuspecting public?
To emphasize the depth of the problem, while reading the book, an item was published on how two Bulgarians were arrested in Phuket with ‘skimming’ machines. The news item was “Phuket Police last night arrested two Bulgarian men who were caught removing a ‘skimming device’ from an ATM in Karon, on Phuket’s west coast. The men used a ‘skimmer’ to scan information from legitimate cards being inserted into the machine and a fake keypad to record the PIN numbers being entered by customers, Tourist Police Capt Somdej Saraban explained at a press conference this morning. ‘They were to sell the information they had collected to ‘agents’ located in tourism destinations both here in Thailand, such as in Pattaya, as well as overseas,’ he explained.” All of a sudden, the information in this book was totally pertinent to our local situation.
Glenny takes the reader through various scams and how the involvement grows within the criminal community, especially those called “carders” who stand to make large sums of money from milking bank account holders through misappropriation of the details on their credit cards. Successful racketeers being able to buy real estate, luxury cars and other big ticket goods, and at the same time keeping a low profile.
The book shows that there are certain levels of mistrust between law enforcement agencies in different countries, and even between agencies in the same country. The dark marketeers use this to spook others in the rackets until nobody is sure of friend or foe!
For many of these people, they crave respect amongst their brother hackers and crackers, but anonymity is a double edged sword which breeds an intrinsic lack of trust across the internet.
At B. 435, it is a cheap wake-up call for all of us who rely on plastic. Perhaps it is time to think about putting a sock under the mattress?