Archives for theft



The Dangers of Being a Creature of Habit

Blane Nordahl is very good at stealing high-end silver from old homes all over the U.S. He is also, however, a creature of habit. His methodology is so constant, and so distinct, that if a bunch of silver starts to disappear, it becomes obvious to those who know his m.o. that Nordahl is responsible. Then he is hunted down, arrested, and sent to prison for a while — after which he is released and goes right back to his stealing ways.

Back in 2004, I wrote a long article about Nordahl for The New Yorker. There were two detectives who knew just about everything about Nordahl: Cornell Abruzzini, then of the Greenwich, Conn., police force; and Lonnie Mason, a retired New Jersey detective. Abruzzini is still a cop in Connecticut; Mason is still retired. But that didn’t stop Mason from contributing to the last manhunt for Nordahl, helping police departments across the south gather evidence against him. This resulted in the re-arrest of Nordahl early yesterday. The New York Times has the whole story on its front page today, written by Kim Severson.

If you are a TV or movie producer thinking about hijacking this story, you should note that Law and Order already did it (“ripped from the headlines” indeed).



“Is Everything We Know About Password-Stealing Wrong?”

The next time your bank or credit-card company frantically calls and texts and e-mails you (all at the same time) to say it has noticed “suspicious activity” on your account — like buying gas in a ZIP code a bit poorer than your own — and says it has suspended your account “for your protection,” tell them to read this paper, by Dinei Florencio and Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research. A key passage:

We show that, in spite of appearances, password-stealing is a bad business proposition. … It is worth, at the outset, dispelling a widely-held misapprehension about password-stealing. Thieves certainly steal passwords, and money is certainly a large part of their motivation, but when they successfully extract money from financial accounts individual consumers do not pay. In the US, Regulation E of the Federal Reserve limits consumer liability, in the event of fraud, to $50 (this is separate from the $50 limit for credit-card fraud, Regulation CC) and covers “any electronic transfer that is initiated through an electronic terminal, telephone, computer or magnetic tape.” In the US banks, brokerages, and credit unions are governed by this regulation and most go beyond it and o ffer a zero liability policy to consumers.

(HT: Peter Baehr)



Copying Is Not Theft

Last week, the New York Times ran an interesting and important op-ed by Stuart Green, a law professor, who argues that although illegal downloading of songs or videos from the Internet may be wrong, it’s not really “theft” in the sense that the term has been understood historically in the law. Nor is it theft according to the moral intuitions of ordinary people (as Green’s own research with psychologist Matthew Kugler shows), who draw a sharp distinction between online file sharing and ordinary theft, even when the economic value of the property taken is the same.  Read More »



Exchange Economies

A friend of ours had her purse, containing her driver’s license and passport, stolen in a German train station. She reported it to the local police, who told her that she may well get the purse back — minus any cash. Homeless people in the stations troll the trash bins for food and other goodies. When they find purses, wallets, etc., they turn them over to station police. In exchange the police do not roust them out of the stations, which they use for shelter and warmth. In fact, the police were right — the friend did eventually get some of the lost items back.



How Much Do Music and Movie Piracy Really Hurt the U.S. Economy?

Supporters of stronger intellectual property enforcement — such as those behind the proposed new Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in Congress — argue that online piracy is a huge problem, one which costs the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion per year, and is responsible for the loss of 750,000 American jobs. 

These numbers seem truly dire: a $250 billion per year loss would be almost $800 for every man, woman, and child in America. And 750,000 jobs – that’s twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010.

The good news is that the numbers are wrong. Read More »



Find My Phone

Corporations like Amazon and Sirius won’t help owners recover their lost gadgets, like cell phones or Kindles or the Sirius receiver. The article points out that “iPhone owners have a number of options to search for their handsets, including features that use GPS technology to send out virtual semaphores.” Read More »



A Record Label in 140 Characters or Less

We’ve written before about musicians giving away their work for free online. Now you can add Mike Skinner (a.k.a. The Streets) to the list. He’s giving away new songs using Twitter because, he writes, “all this trying to sell you music … wastes valuable time.” A new study out of Norway suggests Mike‘s business model […] Read More »



Pirates Steal Ships, Not Songs

If you copy this post and pass it off as your own, that’s called plagiarism. If you illegally download a Freakonomics e-book for yourself, that’s downlifting (or, more traditionally, bootlegging). If you want to be a pirate, downloading a bootleg of Hook isn’t going to get you there — you’re going to have to actually […] Read More »