Skip Theft

I see from the papers that the Grand Hotel in Brighton dumped all their old guest records from 1997 into a skip outside the hotel. These reportedly included the personal address and financial information, such as credit card details of some very important people who had stayed there over the last decade.

This kind of foolishness underlines how important it is to take every effort to protect your personal information against the increasing risk of identity theft.

According to CIFAS - the UK's fraud prevention service - 120,000 people are affected by identity theft in the UK each year, while a Cabinet Office study carried out in 2002 estimated that crime facilitated by identity fraud cost Britain £1.3bn a year. This remains the most recent research on the problem, though in reality the figure could be much higher. The Home Office has put together a steering committee to tackle the issue. The committee's website, www.identity-theft.org.uk, offers detailed advice on protection from ID theft.

The Times newspaper reveals what most of us suspect already, that there is what the scientists would call and “operant connection” between playing violent video games and the potential for violent behaviour.

These computer games trigger a mechanism in the brain that makes people more likely to behave aggressively, research suggests.

A study of the effects of popular games such as Doom, Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto, which involve brutal killings, high-powered weaponry and street crime, indicates that avid users become desensitised to shocking acts of aggression. Psychologists found that this brain alteration, in turn, appeared to prime regular users of such games to act more violently.

Some critics remain unconvinced by the findings, however. Jonathan Freedman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, who has prepared several government reports on media and games violence, said that all people “habituate” to any kind of stimulus. “All we are really getting is de-sensitisation to images,” he said. “There’s no way to show that this relates to real-life aggression.”

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