By Leonard Gildarie
Times have changed, and dramatically so. The idyllic life of the ‘80s and ‘90s has gone. The Sunday morning ball game in the middle of the street for bragging rights and raiding a neighbour’s chicken pen and mango tree appear to be forgotten memories.
Last week, I received a jolt. We read about it. We watched movies. It all seem to be so far away from little Guyana.
Yes, we are talking about the Visa Debit Card attack on a number of customers of Republic Bank. It is a real worry. We have new laws now on Cybercrime to address among other things, bullying.
In the case of the bank, Republic has admitted to a number of customers being affected. It appeared that monies were used to make online purchases, including clothes and even pay for Netflix. One of my neighbours said she was affected.
While the bank did not give an idea of how widespread it is, from all indications it appears the problem was significant. It is not often that banks in Guyana would come out and admit something has happened. They prefer to deal with it in-house.
There are a variety of ways people can lose their secured information on the card. The US and other developed countries face a massive problem with credit card and debit card fraud. The credit card companies and banks have special complaints departments to deal with it.
I was watching a movie recently on the issue. I learnt that in places like India, people pay big money for telephone numbers and email addresses.
Sharing our emails and number are normal in everyday life. You go to a supermarket and enter a competition and have to provide a contact number.
Hackers thrive on simple things like an email. Using a phone number and email can lead to illegal access to private information which can access other things.
You go online and shop and this also opens up the possibilities, all illegal.
We have heard so many stories of hackers accessing big email companies and stores and other databases. Hackers target these for specific reasons. They want credit card information. They want bio information. Information is power.
It is difficult, though not impossible, for hackers to be caught. Most of them use multiple IP addresses to hide, but enterprising Cyber police have been recording successes in pinpointing and stopping operations.
There are some rules of thumb. Don’t use your card on any website that you don’t know. Paying for Netflix or items on Amazon and Best Buy may be reasonably safe, but there are risks. Don’t give anyone your card, unless you are comfortable with them and are assured that if anything goes wrong, you can be reimbursed.
In this day and age, there are always risks.
Because we are still in the initial stages of ‘plastic’, as credit cards are known, Guyana is still unsure how to deal with it. In this case, if what is suggested is true – that quite a number of customers were affected – then it may have caught Republic off-guard.
The good thing is the bank says that it has placed tougher measures in the arrangements as it assesses and fixes the weaknesses.
Bank of Guyana will have to play a stricter role of being made aware early, as the regulator, if a significant problem surfaces.
If you are a customer and are one of the growing number of persons with credit or debit Visa cards, it would be wise to check bank statements monthly. In fact, it should be a must. Any anomalies will be picked up. We may say, it is okay, I have not touched that account for a while. The problem is that there is a timeframe involved, and if that time passes for a complaint or claim to be filed, then it will be difficult.
Under US and other regulations in developed counties, the banks and other financial institutions that deal with credit and debit cards have to reimburse the stolen funds once it is established that it was stolen.
We are growing as a country. We will have to be prepared for the day when more than half of payments will be made using a card. There will be a time when 90 percent or more of pensions will be paid directly to a bank account. There will come a time when there will be no more pension books.
Companies will stop collecting large amount of cash and instead send payments to the banks. NIS and the post offices will no longer have lines. We have to be prepared. We have to be watchful. We have to educate ourselves as to how we can protect ourselves.
There is an old saying…’there is nothing quite as attractive like cash’. We have to learn to reduce our dependency.
This past week, there were two other issues that had me deeply worried.
The first was the death of a well-known social figure. He and a former girlfriend were under attack on social media, being criticized, being vilified.
The former girlfriend was arrested recently on an island after allegedly attempting to secure, via fraudulent means, a HIV test report. She is facing court on that island.
Another woman – a well-known singer – also came under attack. She admitted that the attention has deeply affected her.
HIV/AIDS is not something to laugh about. In the ‘90s, with little understanding, it was dreaded. There is treatment now that allows an HIV-positive persons to live for years.
We are a maturing country that is under the world’s microscope now. We should uphold ourselves to standards that would make other countries emulate us. We are a decent people.
This past week, I learnt that the man, well-liked, has died. There was a shameful silence.
I offer deepest condolences to the family and to the two women, be strong.
As a country, this is not who we are. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are getting there. Social media is a valuable tool in news and marketing. It is also the wild west.
We will have to consider introducing some degree of control, I propose.
The other issue that has me still at a loss is the continued issue of domestic violence.
We think it is okay to beat our women. Women think it is okay to abuse their men.
One man from the West Bank is in police custody for allegedly killing his wife and burying her remains in a plot of bushy land next to his family’s business place.
They have wonderful children – the faceless collateral damage, one may say.
In this case, a daughter of the couple was one of the top performers of 2017 in the Grade Six exams.
On the Essequibo coast, another man allegedly killed his wife in front of his son Thursday night. I saw a photograph of three children. They were lost.
I was six when my dad was killed in the line of duty as a policeman. It left my mom devastated and myself and brother empty. I fear for countless, faceless children who witness or have witnessed domestic violence. I pain for those who witnessed the ultimate act and will have to live with the burning questions…was it my fault? Could I have done something?
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