Monday, March 19, 2012

Something to think about including if you want to explain the changes in the number of robberies over time

Using electronic payments won't only reduce bank robberies, it should also reduce street robberies. But as this article points out, you will see more cybercrime (so-called substitution effects). It isn't just for underground economies that people like cash. They also like it sometimes to protect their privacy. From CBS News:

The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.

"Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public," says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.

The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

"If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities," says Schneider, an expert on underground economies.

In Italy — where cash has been a common means of avoiding value-added tax and hiding profits from the taxman — Prime Minister Mario Monti in December put forward measures to limit cash transactions to payments under euro1,000 ($1,300), down from euro2,500 before.

The flip side is the risk of cybercrimes. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention the number of computerized fraud cases, including skimming, surged to nearly 20,000 in 2011 from 3,304 in 2000.

Oscar Swartz, the founder of Sweden's first Internet provider, Banhof, says a digital economy also raises privacy issues because of the electronic trail of transactions. He supports the idea of phasing out cash, but says other anonymous payment methods need to be introduced instead.

"One should be able to send money and donate money to different organizations without being traced every time," he says. . . . .

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