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Editorial: Don't fall prey to credit card information thievery

Credit and DebtGlobalization

There are those who have observed that the global economy has always been part of the human experience.

The demand for exotic goods, ranging from salt and spices to gold, led to the establishment of the Silk Road linking Europe and eastern Asia, trans-Saharan caravan routes that predate the introduction of the camel to northern Africa, and the search for a trans-Atlantic route from western Europe to Asia. This latter search, of course, famously brought about contact between two sets of continents previously unknown to each other, the Americas with Europe, Asia and Africa.

Curiously, what's exotic to someone from, say, Australia may well be commonplace in Maryland. Squirrels and lightning bugs, for example, are unknown in the land of the kangaroo and koala.

Modern references to the global economy appear to have grown not out of the reality that demand for the exotic has long driven brisk traffic across deserts, oceans and mountains, but rather out of the reality that such traffic moves these days at speeds that would have been impressive a scant 40 or 50 years ago. The Internet, credit cards and next day air shipping make it possible, for example, to plan on cooking live lobsters from Maine at a home in Montana - though at a cost of about $35 per lobster.

Speed conquers distance, but it has its price.

It's well worth remembering that legends of the Silk Road, Saharan caravans and trans-oceanic voyages included not only the allure of riches to be had, but also the risks of marauders, pirates and highwaymen.

As it turns out, the modern version of the global economy is well-populated with unsavory characters.

The case of Nghia Nguyen, 35, of Santa Ana, Calif., illustrates this point all too well. Nguyen (pronounced win, for practical purposes in this country) recently pleaded guilty in federal court in Baltimore to participating in a credit card theft scheme that involved an as yet undisclosed Harford County business.

A citizen of Vietnam, Nguyen was able to coordinate from California an effort to skim credit card information off the little magnetic strips on cards and then, through the organization was he was part of, that skimmed electronic information was used to activate counterfeit credit cards, which were then used to purchase a range of items.

The credit card skimming equipment used in the operation, by the way, the Mini600 electronic magnetic card reader, is available for purchase on the Internet, at a cost in the $400 range.

Nguyen's case is hardly unique. Ask around and if you haven't fallen victim to some sort of electronic scheme, odds are a friend, co-worker or relative has.

Such schemes are well worth keeping track in order to keep from falling victim to them.

Such is the human condition that, while the circumstances of the global economy and those who prey upon its weak points may change, the creative imagination of thieves is something that's never to be underestimated.

Take note because forewarned is forearmed.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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