How the Internet Can Reduce Global Theft

Publisher�s Outlook

How the Internet Can Reduce Global Theft

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

A while back I left a GPS unit in a rental car. When I realized I wasn't going to get it back I called the GPS company because I remembered it was M2M enabled and, as such, I paid a $10 a month fee for Google search access and other online goodies for it. (I don't want to be offensive to any particular company, so I will refer to the GPS company supplying my device as PomPom.)

The first thing I did was cancel my account. The second was to ask that it not be enabled again if someone who takes the unit calls PomPom to start the service.

The call center agent for PomPom informed me that the company couldn't honor my request as the situation would be the same as a GPS unit being stolen from an electronics store. It's been many months, and I am still not sure what that comment means and, to be honest, it still bothers me that I paid for something that I lost and someone else can find the unit, call the GPS company and they both benefit.

This ties into what is a much bigger concern: the new and growing channel for stolen goods on the Internet. I have thought for a long time that there are ways we could reduce the immeasurable amount of theft in the world with simple technology.

It isn't just the theft that costs us, though. It’s also the hassle. Consider the precautions people take by purchasing insurance and alarm systems for additional billions of dollars a year. Moreover, when leaving items of value in a parked car or home, many people spend time hiding them or taking them out of the car/home and dragging them along to avoid theft. There is a tremendous inconvenience and annoyance factor associated with protecting valuable items, even if they are never stolen.

Since many valuable items have unique serial numbers on them, why do not create a universal online registry of stolen products that would be checked before purchasing? For items that don't have these numbers, such as jewelry, they can be etched in via laser.

If such a system were implemented, then the value of a stolen GPS unit would be low and we may even see a person who finds a lost device returning it to collect a reward. Interestingly, I lost a wallet and a checkbook in the past decades and both times they were returned to me via the mail. I think the wallet had its cash removed; but still, at least I got it back with all the cards and other important information in it.

If we want to improve global productivity and reduce the amount of police reports filed, why would we not implement such a simple system? eBay (News - Alert), in fact, should be championing the idea as it is a publicly-traded company and at some point you have to assume the bad press from being the world's largest pawn shop will catch up with the company.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard