Crime is evolving. 100 years ago, the best way to line your coffers was to rob a train. Bank robberies became a lucrative endeavor as well, yielding about $10,000 per heist according to the FBI. Yet, statistics don’t lie: the number of bank robberies dropped 23 percent from 2011 to 2012. As technology advances, some physical crimes — such as kidnapping, armed robbery, and post office scams — may decline or disappear entirely, experts say. Here’s a few on the dead pool list.
Robbing a convenience store won’t make sense 10 to 20 years from now.
Security expert and book author Winn Schwartau says we will move to a cashless society in the next decade. He says physical currency is too expensive anyway — it now costs two cents to make one penny. ATM locations might not even exist at all.
Once currency moves to the digital realm, a bank hold-up won’t work. As SchwartauI says, in some African communities being rebuilt this year, officials have not even bothered building banks or ATM machines. They rely on a virtual economy and pay-by-phone.
Stealing a car is already difficult, especially with today’s anti-theft technologies. Most cars use an alarm system that detects a break-in. OnStar uses an anti-theft technology that aids law enforcement: If a car is stolen, police can work with OnStar to disable the vehicle.
In the next 10 to 20 years, stealing a car will make even less sense. Predictive technologies, already used in a research project at Ford with help from Google, could detect when a car is stolen because it is driving fast or erratically, or even in an unknown area.
According to Robert Shaker, a security expert at Symantec, police will then be able to remotely disable a vehicle or even lock the perpetrator inside. Or maybe a simple smartphone app will be able to disable the car. Thieves will know the chances of clean getaway are slim.
3DVD / CD piracy
You can purchase pirated DVDs on a thriving black market today. In fact, if you visit China, you can buy one just for a few dollars. Yet as streaming media services like Hulu, Netflix and Vudu become even more common, we’ll finally stop buying physical media entirely.
In the future, physical media won’t be necessary as Internet bandwidth speeds increase, the movie studios start trusting powerful data encryption technologies, and more movie-watchers realize the benefits to renting a digital movie on a whim.
“Piracy won’t go away but there will be less of a demand [for physical goods],” says Raj Samani, a vice president at security company McAfee.
4Post Office scams
Even today, it’s not uncommon to receive a letter in the mail asking you to call a number to claim a prize or reduce your debt. Some turn out to be scams, which is a federal crime.
By 2025, the Post Office might not even exist. The government-controlled entity is losing billions, shredding its workforce, and closing locations. As the volume of physical mail sent in the U.S. declines (dropping 21 percent since 2008), scammers will turn elsewhere.
New services like Outbox.com, which digitizes your physical mail, could also make physical mail delivery a quaint memory. Or at least much less attractive to criminals.
5Credit card fraud
Criminals routinely steal credit cards and use them to purchase goods. In the future, that won’t be possible, says Shaker, because the cards will use encryption technology. A thief might steal your credit card but won’t know your passcode to unlock the funds.
Smart cards, already in use today, go a step further. They might use a biometric reader to identify you as the owner, and block access once a card is stolen.
Plus currency itself is changing. While we might not see encrypted currencies like Bitcoin become commonplace for another decade or more, Shaker says non-card payment technologies — say, paying with your smartphone — are already on the rise.
The worst terrorist attack in the U.S. involved airline hijacking. But in the future, terrorists and criminals won’t even consider physically hijacking a plane as an option.
The main reason has to do with technology advances. According to Corey Nachreiner, the director of security strategy at WatchGuard, digital hijacking will replace physical assaults in the air. Many planes will use robotic “fly by wire” controls. Criminals will know it makes more sense to re-route a plane by hacking into the navigational systems.
That’s still a scary proposition, of course. But take comfort in the fact that by 2025, Robocops should be battling criminals in force.
- By John Brandon