With kidnappings up 317% over the last five years—not to mention the disturbing fact that more than 20% of the crimes have allegedly involved police officers or soldiers—scared Mexicans are increasingly turning to a controversial method of protecting themselves: tracking devices. For $2,000 upfront and an additional $2,000 per year, one company will implant a radio-frequency identification chip under the skin, which in turn relays a signal to a GPS device held outside the body. Sales are up 40% over the past two years, says a Xega executive, who claims that clients can still be found even without the GPS unit—and says 178 people have been retrieved over the last 10 years. But experts say the whole enterprise is a sham.
“It’s nonsense,” one RFID researcher tells the Washington Post. In order to communicate with satellites or a cell network, such a device would require a battery and an antenna and would probably need to be larger; a true RFID human tracking device is likely a distant prospect. Even so, some Mexican media reports have estimated that up to 10,000 people have gotten the implants. Other companies sell more conventional, less expensive GPS tracking units that can be carried on a key chain; one exec says sales increase 20% to 25% each month. But researchers aren’t convinced those will work very well either—especially if the abducted person is taken to an area with no reception.