Most wanted: The name without a face

State Records NSW. Flickr. February 4, 2011.

State Records NSW. Flickr. February 4, 2011.

The proliferation of web-enabled crimes and criminals has prompted employee training by companies managing proprietary, privileged, and confidential information.  Seemingly slang terms like phishing, spoofing, and smishing have become professional jargon.  Communities are just beginning to resolve questions of legality and jurisdiction.  If those issues weren’t a sufficient challenge, the anonymity permitted by these crimes prevents even victims from identifying the perpetrators.

Unlike violent crimes, possession and use of a firearm or knife isn’t needed for web-enabled crimes.  Superior physical strength or an intimidating demeanor isn’t required, either.  Unlike conventional low-skilled white collar crimes like fraudulent check cashing or retail theft, there’s no need to show one’s face in public.  Even more, the skills needed for web-enabled crimes can be self-taught.  There’s no need for a college degree in accounting or finance to commit postmodern white collar crimes.  Identity theft can be lucrative and accomplished just by social engineering scams.

What’s the future of crime?  Will shoplifting, purse-snatchings, and, even, retaliatory drive-by shootings disappear?  After all, the risk of incarceration or death is greatly reduced by the camouflage of a computer screen.  Online shopping with someone else’s credit card can be accomplished far away from the surveillance of department store security guards.  Obtaining those credit card numbers requires only deceptive email messages, not loitering on darkened streets in isolated areas.  Instead of purchasing and using an unregistered handgun, gang members need only begin an online campaign against a chosen victim.  Names and incriminating video evidence can be posted anonymously.  What could be a better revenge against an enemy than his or her lengthy prison sentence?

Our perceptions of the safety of the web would be rudely and permanently dismissed by increasing news reports of virtual crimes.  For law-abiding people, though, the retreat of criminals from the streets would dramatically change the routines of daily life.  Nightlife could include people of all ages and inclinations.  Firefly chasing, outdoor night basketball games, and all night porch chatting might add some respectability to club hopping and partying.  Early risers could safely meditate in parks.  Families could leave gates and doors unlocked.  Community would again become local blocks rather than international chat rooms or social media.  Criminals, not neighbors would become the faceless strangers to be mistrusted. Serenity would reign.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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