Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Crime Goes Low Tech

As a nation, us Brits must rank as some of the most impatient. Our reputation for road rage precedes us and I always smile when I remember US colleagues visiting the UK on business referring to driving down our country lanes as jousting.

In fact the British police have just been given new powers to apply on the spot fines to drivers who drive too aggressively, like tailgating.  We do that a lot.  Not me personally, although I'll admit to being quick off the mark, probably too quick on occasions, but I've never been a fan of driving fast and close, relying on the brakes and my reactions.  The brakes I trust....

Mind you the new rules also allow the police to penalise drivers who sit in the middle lane on motorways when there's space on the inner lane.  This might seem like the opposite to aggressive driving, but on this island, drivers who hog the middle lane seem to increase the amount of stupid manoeuvres of other drivers.  For those readers who drive in countries that allow all lanes to progress at whatever pace they want - and I've worked in the US - our rigid adherence to lane discipline might seem a little strange.  Until you've driven in Germany, of course.  So by encouraging drivers to use the inner lanes except when overtaking should go some way to remove other anti-social behaviour.

It's down to our impatience, I reckon.

Like in the supermarket, when waiting in line to be served, goods piled on the conveyor.  I'm sure I'm not the only shopper to get frustrated when the shopper in front waits to be told how much the bill is before reaching for his or her credit card or cash.  As if the result was ever going to be zero.  No, they watch all the items go through the scanner, they may even pack their trolley if we're lucky, but then they say - oh, I need to pay for these?  Oh, go on, I'll search for my cards.

I might have been a bit PC in that last statement because actually, it's usually the female of the species that takes their time fishing the credit card out.  Of course there is another reason why the card takes so long to appear with the ladies and that is because they tend to carry their cards in a purse, held in a handbag, along with every item likely to be needed in an emergency including the kitchen sink, so it's no surprise that it takes longer to fish the card out.

Apparently some crooks have noticed this and are now exploiting it.  And it's largely to blame because of the payment methods at supermarket checkouts.  You see, for some time now the UK has used chip and PIN for card payments and that has made fraud in shops with stolen cards pretty much impossible.  Online fraud has also dropped dramatically over the last few years, despite the constant warnings being shouted from the rooftops and the crooks' constant attempts to trick passwords out of us.

You would have thought one new technological area that has surfaced in the last few years, contactless payments, would have pointed to an increase in card crimes, but seemingly the amount that has been defrauded is apparently trivial.  To be fair, we're limited to purchases not exceeding £20 and in a limited number of locations such as McDonalds, so there's only a limited amount of Big Macs a thief can hope to get away with before the stolen card is stopped.

So to counter this drop in revenue line the common crook has resorted to good old fashioned sleight of hand.  And it is the card in a purse in a handbag that gives them the opportunity.  You see, when many women use an ATM they queue like the rest of us and, when they reach the front of the queue, they start to root for their card.  They are so immersed in the activity they don't notice a man walking alongside to get in prime position to witness the number sequence they put in.  Critically the other customers queuing don't realise there's a problem because most assume the man is with the woman.

Then as soon as the woman has entered her PIN the man alongside distracts her, pushes eject on the console and palms the card.  Meanwhile the woman is waiting for her card and cash to be returned while the man slips off to use the card quickly in nearby ATMs.

Here's my advice, regardless of gender.  Get the card ready while you're in the queue, or if it's likely to take your full attention, move away from the queue altogether with your back to the wall where yu will be able to scan your periphery.  Then, before you enter the card, check that you are alone - don't get aggressive with anyone who is getting too close and don't engage in conversation.  If they won't back up, don't start the transaction, back away and if they don't walk off, you should, calling the police as you walk.  Be warned they operate in groups, which is why you need to avoid tackling them.

This method might occasionally mean you take longer to get your cash but at least it's safer  And stop complaining - are you impatient or something?


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