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Gear being stolen on a global scale

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Nick Griffin
Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 6, 2011 at 4:43:43 pm

Barbara Holler of New Pro Video Systems posted this link on the Retail Classifieds forum. It deserves wider circulation, hence the re-post. It's quite the cautionary tale and well worth reading as it may have a long term effect on many of us who are on both sides of renter/rental transactions.

http://stolencameraequipment.blogspot.com/


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 6, 2011 at 5:11:14 pm

Hey Nick,

Yes, sadly there is quite a few entities that are allowed to work in the UK. Our company was plagued for years by unwanted elements trying to gain access, in the end it was cheaper not to carry the equipment, but many of our UK colleagues has gone out of business as a result of fraud and/or theft.

In my opinion: Often we find that the UK Police does know the identities of or can easily find the person(s) responsible. But either they will not co-ordinate their efforts between various departments or won't allocate resources to lock them up. There has been allegations of the Police not reacting, because the same people doing the crime are doubling as informants. The real question is, how can soo much equipment be stolen without the authorities taking action?

I had one very recent example of attempted fraud where the fraudster gave me a delivery address for the goods and 2 stolen credit cards for payment. Neither the Police or the Bank in question were interested. The Police operators opinion was that until the crime had been committed, it would be down to the bank. The bank stopped the card(s) and told me that they were not interested either - my take is that they, the banks, are making to much money to bother about the "bit" that they loose - i.e. crime pays when it comes to Credit Card and Identity theft.

So who wins?
The manufacturers gets to supply equipment to people who will not pay a full price for it.
The end client for our productions, because someone using stolen equipment can and will undercut our rates. (And don't get me started on people using pirated software...)
The Insurance company because they can inflate our insurance. And when they took a bit hit on it, like AXA in the early noughties, they just up and leave the industry.

In this day and age of smart chips such as RDIF there should be no reason for why Broadcast kit cannot be produced in the same manner, like when you can't use a car or a mobile without having the right authorization for it. This unfortunately won't happen as long as the authorities, insurance companies, banks and manufacturers do nothing... - and they will keep doing nothing as long as they are the ones who don't have to pay for it.

My 25p for today :-(

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please do visit our faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - Digital Media Production
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 6, 2011 at 6:43:03 pm

Mads, I can sympathize with the anger and loss. But I don't like your RFID idea's wider implications for free speech. Let's not be so hasty in the attempt to solve one problem that we create a much bigger one.

I think one of the best things we can do to help is to record all our serial numbers and then if something happens, immediately post them to one of the stolen gear databases, so people suspicious of a "bargain" can check the merchandise out.

I would further suggest that it might make sense for the COW to establish one of these sites itself, or create a forum at least as a central point of contact for information sharing.


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 6, 2011 at 8:23:48 pm

Hey Mark,

[Mark Suszko] " But I don't like your RFID idea's wider implications for free speech."
So has mobile phones, tap'n go payment cards, GPS tracker, anything with a microchip really. So yes, RFID might seem extreme, but not that different from any other technology that we employ. I think that the point I wanted to make was that not enough is done to make it difficult for the criminals to use the kit.

If not using RDIF; an old friend of mine once suggested that when the VTR got unplugged from the mains, that it could automatically require a password before being operational again. It is just a question of getting the manufacturer to implement the security.

In the UK we had a period in 2002-2004 where over £14,000,000 worth of high-end kit got stolen, most to order. Even with serial numbers logged, descriptions etc. still none or very little of it has been recovered. I suspect that the 'buyers' of that kit has been able to continue to get maintenance and spare parts, despite the manufacturers also being able to monitor those same lists of stolen kit - maybe a bit harsh, but if there has to be an incentive for a buyer and/or supplier to check the kit before handling.

Bottom line IMHO is that the owners of kit are most often on their own when it comes to security and recovery.

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please do visit our faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - Digital Media Production
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 7, 2011 at 4:25:45 am

Mads, I think we just have to agree to disagree. From my standpoint, we already have overly-oppressive control over content thru CMDA and broadcast tags that tell our own appliances what they can and cannot be allowed to show us, even after we've paid for the content. Any more of the "big brother" technology, applied to the means of production of media, carries a dark possibility of control and monitoring of specific individuals who may wish to communicate things the State would rather they not. I'm not some tin-pot libertarian desert-dweller, but neither do I think constitutional rights and human rights, bought with blood, should ever be relinquished for transitory reasons of convenience or "security". I know in your comments you don't mean anything about reducing human rights or controlling and censoring our voices as producers of content, and I'm NOT trying to paint you in that way; you're just looking for ways to stop bad guys from stealing property. All I'm saying, friend, is that the flip side of that card can be abused quite harshly, so we need to think through ALL the implications and do things that make sense for the long term.

I think we look at this from different angles because the British/European world view of such things is different from an American one. Fair enough. I really do not want this to get any more political, and I think I'll let this drop after I've said my piece here, but I will suggest there are examples already in various countries where media is very tightly controlled, for commercial profit reasons as well as political convenience. I'm talking about Berlusconi's Italy here. With a monopolistic stranglehold on internet development and broadcast access that's the envy of Mainland China or post-Soviet Russian oligarchs, do you think that guy, or someone much worse elsewhere, should get even MORE tools to throttle production like recorders and cameras that need frequent log-ins? What of people in global human rights hotspots like the Mid-east or China; if everything those people shot on their cameras or phones to upload to the free world was logged and traceable, they might be hunted down and killed by their governments, and we'd never know.

I just know you're going to tell me I've extrapolated a premise too far. And yet, you can't convince me any of what I suggested was impossible. I want to keep it as non-possible as we can afford. Sure, we want to stop crime. We just shouldn't put ourselves in a panopticon prison and throw away the keys, just to accomplish it.

Let's find another, better way.


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:02:03 am

Hey Mark,

I agree wholeheartedly with all of your points. And I also believe that some the changes that we are seeing today in places like the Middle East is down to the movement of free speech, and that this should in NO way should be curtailed. But it has to be recognised that as soon as you turn on your mobile or similar device, that you are in electronic view of anyone with the means to monitor your signal.

Instead of me suggesting the answer, the question should have been: How can our industry, its suppliers and the authorities be more pro-active in reducing fraudulent hires and thefts?

What would also be interesting to know, is whether the members in the US are having the same experiences as in Europe?

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please do visit our faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - Digital Media Production
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Chris Cardno
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 7, 2011 at 9:38:18 pm

As the Production Manager at Visual Edge, one of the companies that had the gear stolen, I can honestly say that I'd be all for GPS chips, lo-jacks, exploding dye packs or a Rottweiler installed in the cameras.

:-)

In all seriousness, this is a major problem for rental companies in this industry. Not only was the theft the result of a very well planned scheme the thieves themselves knew what they were looking for and had knowledge of how our industry works. This wasn't a typical robbery of a production truck left unlocked outside a location, this was the definition of an organized crime.

The bigger shock for us was discovering that this wasn't a one off theft, this was part of a string. And the police here were very surprised to find out how long that string has been going on for -- the only reason I could think of was that this industry has for years been so paranoid and terrified of giving their competitors an edge that it made no sense to publicize the loss of equipment. The difference in this case is that I was pissed off and decided that I wanted to make sure the bastards that did us don't get to do it to anyone else.

Chris Cardno
Visual Edge Productions
Bethesda, MD


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Vince Becquiot
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:19:48 pm

I think one of the biggest deterrent is referrals and insurance requirements. Most of the rental places around here (SF Bay area) will not rent to you unless you can provide at least 3 companies you've done business with or rented from, and that you carry rental insurance.

For new renters, they also do credit check and a CC or check deposit in the amount of the gear you are renting. I think it would be quite hard to get passed these.

Vince Becquiot

Kaptis Studios
San Francisco - Bay Area


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Mark Suszko
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 8, 2011 at 4:51:54 am

You could always ask for payment in advance... and actually wait for a check or wire transfer to clear. Or am I missing something?


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 9, 2011 at 1:10:14 am

Hey Mark,

The only way to truly secure over $100,000 worth of kit (my estimate looking at the list Nick is referring to), is to ask for $110,000 in deposit. At least the cost of buying and shipping is covered. In a fraudulent hire situation there is just no cover except for the insurance company clearing the hire before the kit goes out (near impossible to get in print) - but this will still hit by you loosing the no-claims bonus + a 30% hike in next years premium.

This is really important to understand for anyone reading this tread: Identity theft crimes are up there on the list next to smuggling and trade of drugs & humans. The people doing it are really good at it!

If you are an overseas company, the only way to avoid a case of theft by foreign passports/identity papers being used, is by finding the customers contact details directly on the net or yellow pages, phone them and ask them if they are about to hire/buy the services in question? And if they can provide 2 six month old utility bills with their current address and a contact reference at their UK bank.

And even if it is a local hire, spare a thought for a friend of mine who just recently had a similar case, except: The fraudsters used a local trading address, with a properly registered Limited company as a front. They did a couple of small hires, paid on time, and build up a report with the hire company. There was nothing suspect about it when they hire $40,000 worth of kit - which is today still missing and the limited company has seized to exist.

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please do visit our faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - Digital Media Production
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Video Production Gear being stolen on a global scale
on Mar 9, 2011 at 4:53:20 pm

Mark,
"...libertarian desert-dweller..."
Hey, watch it, I resemble that remark!

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com

I have a system, it has stuff in it, and stuff hooked to it. I have a camera, it can record stuff. I read the manuals, and know how to use this stuff and lots of other stuff too.
You should be suitably impressed...


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