Cash Counters Digital Theft
Proponents of a cashless world say it would reduce crime, but digital payments have brought a new wave of criminal activity centred around benefit, credit card and identity fraud. Washington Times has examined the pitfalls of an America without cash, making a strong case for preserving payment choice.
It opens with data from a Gallup poll that found 13 percent of Americans make most or all of their purchases with cash. 46 percent of 18–29-year-olds and 45 percent of 30–49-year-olds like to have cash with them outside the home, rising through the higher age categories up to 73 percent for those aged over 65. Overall, 56 percent of adults like to have cash to hand when away from home. 45 percent of people said they would be upset were America to become cashless, compared with nine percent who would be happy. The remainder were neutral on the subject.
Washington Times observes that a shift away from cash will ‘make way for more losses of privacy… [and] more government controls.’ It cites a BBC report on Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, who invoked the Emergencies Act to enable banks to freeze the personal accounts of anyone linked to anti-vaccine mandate protestors.
The more the world moves toward electronic banking, electronic financing, electronic transacting, the more the powers-who-be, namely, the government, hold the power to tighten the purse strings, or even cut them, if so desired.
Setting aside the negative aspects of removing cash as a payment option, there is the perception that crime would be reduced. ‘But then come the hackers,’ says Washington Times, ‘then come the identity thieves, and out the window flies much more money than the tally on a few welfare checks.’
It cites recent data from Define Financial that says individuals are now reporting a total of $3.3 billion of losses related to identity theft or fraud each year. This is a steep rise over the $1.8 billion that was reported in 2019. The pandemic, in particular, offered a boost to opportunities for committing such crimes.
The pandemic gave identity thieves a ‘perfect story’ in which to operate. Computer crime was [already] the fastest-growing type of crime in the world… This [pandemic] opened up everyone to even more attacks.
‘Cash in hand counters all those types of theft,’ Washington Times observes.
Ultimately, criminals will adapt to the environment in which they find themselves and the particular opportunities it presents. Adding new ways to pay increases payment choice, which is a positive step. Problems only arise—in terms of less freedom and greater vulnerability to digital crime—when cash is removed as an option. Fortunately, the solution is simple: maintain access and preserve the option to pay using cash, and there are positive signs America is moving more in that direction than towards complete cashlessness.