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Teodora Iacob - The value of personal data

Author: Teodora Iacob

We have heard many beautiful stories here, I will talk about money.

Let's start with a question. Have you ever received text messages purporting to be from the post office or a telephone company, but they still seem to ask you for a lot of data? Or have you seen an advertisement on the Internet in which acquaintances tell you that they have become rich in a short space of time by investing?

Last month Maria wanted to sell her bike online on a well-known platform. She received her first request for 2 days later. She wrote her card details on a page that looked like it belonged to the platform. A few minutes later, 3,000 lei was transferred from her account, even though as a seller she was supposed to receive the money.

Mihai was at his desk when he received a message from the Romanian post office with a request to enter the address and pay online a sum of money for the delivery of a parcel. That's how he lost all his rent money.

Both situations are real. I'm a prosecutor, and at Prosecutor's office where I work, dozens of these complaints are filed on a weekly basis.

The cases described above are phishing situations involving information. In other words, they involve actions in which personal data is requested directly from the victim or from their phone. The scams are varied, very well elaborated and change from year to year: OLX scams with links to clone sites, messages from postal or other courier services, and now in vogue are scams involving investments in cryptocurrencies or shares in various companies.

The key to their success is a very common one: under the impression of the moment or after gaining trust, a victim gives the details of their ID card to a malicious person, bank card information or even full access to their personal phone.

We have interviewed people in the cases presented. We have talked to people who have lost their life savings and have become depressed. These situations generate a lot of frustration and anger for the victims.

But the frustration is also felt on our side, mine and the police officers who receive the cases. Research in such cases can take months because most of the evidence is electronic data stored on servers outside the country. So we have to follow certain procedures to obtain information. Most of the time you feel like you're looking for ”the needle in the quiver with hay”. In some cases, you find it and the data starts to link up and then I know I have to cancel my weekend plans.

Other times the technological mechanisms used are hard to understand. The perpetrator is careful to hide behind many virtual doors. Most transactions are made to accounts abroad and from there to other accounts or they are exchanged into crypto currencies. Although the ”modus operandi” is not exactly new, it evolves and changes fast. Experts are few and far between. We have a structure within the police that deals with such cases, but the members have no technical training in the field of computer science. I didn't have a technical specialization in this field. So, initially, I went back to the books, I searched the Internet for similar cases and asked friends to give me courses in computer networks.

As a prosecutor, I have to learn something new for every case I investigate.

As a man of justice, I notify my family, friends, and acquaintances to be cautious, to be skeptical, to understand the value of personal data.

We live in a fascinating time of technological development. We are transferring large sums instantly, without enormous costs, we buy goods from any corner of the world just a click away. The downside is that with the instant transfer of money, the chances of stopping transactions are very small.

If an offer is too good, there is a good chance that it is not genuine. Check the offer from several sources. Be skeptical when it comes to transferring large amounts of money. Check new websites before you enter your card details.

Antivirus software is no longer a fad, but a necessity for any device we use. Mobile phones contain valuable personal information. Access to it must be secured and never given to anyone else known recently.

Maria got some of her money back from the bank where she had opened her account. We have obtained the details of the possible perpetrators. Michael was not so lucky. He authorized the transaction with a code he received via text message, and the bank was unable to retrieve the money. In addition, the money went to an account in China and we were unable to obtain any further information.

The fight against this phenomenon, which is becoming more and more widespread, must be a joint effort. The state authorities have the task of informing and investigating the perpetrators. And we can all be people of justice. If we understand the value of personal data, we can protect not only ourselves, but also those around us. We can educate them on how to recognize, avoid and report fraud. At the end of the day, we all just want to create a better environment for our citizens.

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