Looters foiled as stolen TV sets are being remotely disabled

26 August 2021 - 12:27
By TimesLIVE
Looters' would-be enjoyment of stolen Samsung TV sets has dried up fast.
Image: Samsung/Supplied Looters' would-be enjoyment of stolen Samsung TV sets has dried up fast.

Some of the looters who gleefully ran off with televisions during the July unrest have been foiled by technology that remotely disables stolen TV sets.

Samsung South Africa has announced the implementation of a television block function on all its TV sets obtained through unlawful means or stolen from its warehouses, including sets looted from its Cato Ridge distribution centre in KwaZulu-Natal last month.

The company said the block function was activated as part of its commitment to reopening businesses and minimising the loss of jobs after the unrest, in line with the plea to #RebuildSouthAfrica.

“TV Block is a remote, security solution that detects if Samsung TV units have been unduly activated, and ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase,” Samsung said in a statement.

“The aim is to mitigate against the creation of secondary markets linked to the sale of illegal goods, both in SA and beyond its borders.”

How the blocking function works:

The blocking will come into effect when the user of a stolen television connects to the internet, in order to operate the television.

Once connected, the serial number of the television is identified on the Samsung server and the blocking system is implemented, disabling all the television's functions.

Should a customer’s TV be incorrectly blocked, the functionality can be reinstated once proof of purchase and a valid TV licence is provided.

The technology is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.

Mike van Lier, director of consumer electronics at Samsung SA, said: “We will continuously develop and expand strategic products in our consumer electronics division with defence-grade security, purpose-built, with innovative and intuitive business tools designed for a new world.

“This technology can have a positive impact at this time, and will also be of use to both the industry and customers in the future.

“Working together, we can overcome the impact of the unprecedented disruption to business, as experienced by many of us recently,” said Van Lier. “We will continue to review the situation and will make adjustments as necessary to ensure business continuity for all.”

July's riots cost 330 lives and R50bn in damage to property and infrastructure.

So far, 16 instigators have been arrested.

The chase is also on to apprehend those caught with hard cash stolen during the civil unrest, which is estimated to total R119m. The SA Banking Risk Information Centre recently urged businesses to be stringent about cash threshold reporting, to not engage in facilitating suspicious transactions and to immediately report these to the Financial Intelligence Centre.