‘High-tech’ crimes

ALL of us today are at risk, more than we realize, more than ever before. Criminals, as expected, are taking advantage of modern technology to perpetrate their illegal acts more efficiently and discreetly.

High-tech electronic pickpocket data readers, much like the credit card readers at check-out counters, are used by thieves to steal identity, credit card/passport and other data. They simply carry the gadget in a case or in a paper bag, and come close to their victim, with no body contact in stores or even while walking on the street near the target, and, in seconds, voila!, the data are instantly copied on their reading device surreptitiously.

A solution to combat this method is actually easy. Make a quadruple-folded aluminum foil from your kitchen the exact size of credit cards or passport, etc., and place all cards/passports “sandwiched” between two folded aluminum foils. This will cover the microchip on the cards/passports, etc. and prevent RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) reader from accessing the data at no extra cost.

There are protective (blocker) RFID pockets and wallets for credit cards and passports at Walmart. Target, on amazon.com, etc. The use of cellular phone with Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, etc. also prevents the risk of electronic theft, not to mention the user gets credit rewards per transaction. Each payment is automatically assigned a distinct 4-digit code, per purchase, per store, unlike using the credit card directly inserted to the card reader at the checkout counter, which uses only one assigned 4-digit code for each and all payments which cashiers or waiters could easily copy, together with the card number, name, etc.

Car doors could also be opened by high-tech thieves. When you click your electronic car key to lock the car doors/trunk, a signal (sound) is emitted, which burglars nearby could copy with their special gadget. Once you go inside the building, they could press a button to emit the same signal and open your car door.

For decades, my wife Farida and I have been consciously and religiously using the manual mode of locking and unlocking our car doors with a key (manually, not electronically), which has now been a habit since. The car handle “touch” mode to lock and unlock cars equipped with it is also safer.

Burglars near your garage can open your garage doors using a Code Grabber, which grabs and records your code when you open your garage door. Once you are inside or after you leave home, they use the Grabber to open your garage. Newer garage doors use a variety of codes and changes codes every so often, making it harder to “grab.”

The old-fashioned way to open your garage is to use a coat hanger, with a curb at the tip. This is inserted right in the middle (between top of the door and the door frame) where the garage door rail is. The emergency lever (release handle with a rope hanging) is hooked and pulled down. This unlocks the garage door, which could then be lifted up.

Solution: Pass a plastic tie through the hole of the lever where the rope is, and through the hole in the metal moving case; lock the tie tight. This will prevent the release handle (metal lever) from being pulled down. Make sure the tie does not impair the opening and closing of the door. At night, or when going on a vacation, the main switch to the garage door may be turned off, just like the water main.

For overall protection, home security alarm with wireless cameras outside and inside the home, with monitoring service, is best. There are a few DIY systems in the market, one of which is SimpliSafe – inexpensive, state-of the-art, with motion sensors, glass sensors, smoke and fire detectors, which anyone can install within one hour. Google it. Of course, having a dog, and/or one or both of these two good friends, 357 magnum and AR-15, would greatly help.

Cyberspace criminals, besides targeting institutions, are also victimizing vulnerable individuals, especially the elderly, to steal their identity, social security info, credit card data, bank account details, and other scams to rob people of their hard-earned money. It is best not to give out personal data by phone or by email, and not to respond to any email from strangers. These tech-savvy criminals have been using company logos to appear legitimate to lure unsuspecting, gullible individuals to fall prey to their cybercrimes. They may even pose as your old friend stranded in another country who lost their wallet and passports, asking you to transfer funds as an emergency aid. Being ultra-vigilant and a bit paranoid are beneficial these days. For online (internet) crimes, report it to www.iC3.gov.

Toxic air in your car

Entering your car, without first opening the windows for a few minutes to allow air from the outside to circulate and aerate the inside, especially when parked under the sun, may be hazardous to your health.

Indeed, your automobile could pose some risks to your life, even before it gets into motion. Like we exercise great caution when driving to prevent injuries to ourselves and to others leading to loss of limb or life, so should we protect ourselves and passengers in our car, even prior to boarding it.

We are referring to the toxic air in the car from chemical vapors coming from the heated dashboard and other interior parts of the car made of plastic and synthetic sofa materials, and from air fresheners and aerosols. Turning the air-conditioning on, without prior aeration (to replace stale and impure air with fresh one) through all four opened windows, will only re-circulate the polluted air within the car.

The toxin Benzene, a carcinogen (cancer-causing) is said to be emitted when plastic is subjected to a high temperature, like in a closed parked car under the sun. Besides being harmful to persons with asthma and allergies, air fresheners and aerosols used in cars and at home, are likewise suspects for toxicity, which could cause harm to bones, blood cells, liver, kidneys, etc.

Experts believe that the acceptable indoor level of Benzene is 50mg per square foot. The level goes up to 400-800mg in a parked car with doors and windows shut. This toxic “vapor” goes up 40 times higher than the “acceptable” level, to 2000-4000mg, in cars parked with windows closed under the sun at an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F.

During summer, the temperature could go up higher than a hundred.

It is, therefore, important to open the car windows to allow stale air to flow out as fresher air from the outside comes in for a couple of minutes before we enter the car, turn on the air conditioner, close the door and windows, and drive on.

Common sense tells us that the cleaner the air we breathe in, the healthier it is for us. Any strategy to prevent or reduce air pollution around us is well worth all our efforts as earthlings. After all, the air we inhale provides us an essential and vital element we cannot live without, one that keeps us alive: oxygen.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com; Email: [email protected]..

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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