Tuesday, 16 June 2015
My interview with the Police
13 May 2015, 1.30 pm
I go to see one of our Congress keynote speakers. She is also, as it happens, speaking at the AGM next week. She is a Detective Superintendent with the City of London Police. And she is in charge of Economic Crime. I am guessing this is a seriously large remit, what with everything the banks have been doing in recent years and everything the Government is planning to do next.
The Detective Superintendent is not at all like the detectives in the TV programmes, rushing around in the rain being ill-lit and moody. She is relaxed and friendly. She brings me a glass of water and turns a big light on for us and asks me a few gentle questions about Congress. I feel a little self-conscious with the tape recorder on, but I get over my initial nerves.
The DS used to be in charge of catching burglars and murderers but now she has to catch cyber criminals. I get the impression she preferred the burglars and murderers, because on the whole they were nowhere near as clever and they kept leaving DNA and fingerprints lying around.
She tells me some fascinating stories about what the cyber fraudsters get up to these days. Part of the problem, it seems, is that the British psyche makes us ideal victims. If a stranger asks a Brit for £2,000 towards a new Gucci® handbag, the Brit’s response is typically to hand over the money and apologise for not offering before. And probably add a tip. The only exception to this might be a patent attorney, who would want to know the dimensions of the handbag before paying up. This means that when a scam email arrives, the average Brit instinctively tries to find a helpful way to reply.
Some victims are difficult to convince that they are victims at all. Just like the inventor who insists on re-mortgaging his home to fund a massive PCT nationalisation programme, despite a search report full of Xs and a distinct lack of either a business plan or indeed a business, they maintain that they have not been scammed at all and continue to transfer funds to the poor out-of-luck Nigerian prince. Plus his bank charges, his travel expenses, his “medical” bills and a donation to the local Small Arms Appreciation Society.
After all this, IP piracy seems a little on the tame side. But apparently the City of London Police are onto it. Big time. Only first they have to convince the new generation of internet users that it is not a fundamental human right to be able to download, copy and distribute anything you like, especially if someone else made it. And the problem here, as with all cyber crime, is that it is just too easy. How can it be a crime to take something that is so readily available, like blackberries at the side of the road? In culinary circles, “foraging” has become quite trendy. So why should you not forage the internet and take home a movie or two to serve with your chips?
I confess I do not know the answers any more than the Detective Superintendent does. She says that’s alright but anything I do say may be taken down in evidence and used against me. So I say, Can you not get Doctor Who to sort out the Cybermen for you, he usually does? But I don’t think that was the answer she wanted.
Anyway, I am glad they did not search me before I went inside the City of London Police headquarters. It may or may not be a crime to carry straw around these days, but it sure looks suspicious in the middle of London. Who’s to say I don’t also have a couple of incendiary crab-apples in my rucksack?