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What's the link between the price of electronics and fraud?

We all know that fraud has been rising pretty steadily in some form or another over the past decade despite efforts to stem it. We have been able to control areas in which fraud was prevalent by implementing technologies and processes to make it much more difficult for fraudsters to accomplish their crime, but in general, that tends to simply shift the problem to another, less secure or more lucrative area.

It’s with that thought in mind, that I found myself listening to a report about the steady decline in crime in London, and globally for that matter. For the most part, our cities are safer and people can go about their lives with little fear of crime. One area of crime that has fallen along with the rest is home burglary – this is what got me thinking a bit like a Freakonomist: is there a correlation between a drop in burglary and a rise in fraud?

Part of this report was mentioning the fact that burglary is not as lucrative anymore since you can walk into your local Tesco and buy a DVD player for not much more than £20, assuming you even have DVDs anymore! With electronics being so cheap and so accessible, can there really be a black-market for them anymore? Is the risk of home invasion worth the small reward of the black-market price on a DVD player or digital camera?

So based on criminals tending to go where the return on investment is highest and the risks are lowest, it follows logically that to take the risk of entering someone’s home or office illegally – where there is a good chance they may be there – walking out with a large electronic item and selling it on for probably well under half its retail value just doesn’t seem that attractive anymore!  Why take that risk when you can send out a few phishing emails or hack a few databases or even just buy some credentials from someone else…all from the comfort of your sofa!

Now obviously we all know the rule that correlation is not causation, so we can’t know for sure if these two things are truly linked, but I think we can draw some interesting conclusions nonetheless. Just as we have seen the price of electronics fall over time and criminals change their approaches, I think we can expect to see other global trends influence crime in ways we would have a hard time predicting.

As we all rush forward to develop and adopt new technology, we will change the way our civilisation operates at a fundamental level; also changing the unsavoury element of our civilisation at the same time. And although sometimes we choose to close our eyes to the darker side of life, we absolutely can’t afford to ignore it when we are designing, developing and implementing all of these wonderful new things that are making today’s world so interesting to be part of.



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