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
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?