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Abolish cash? Keep dreamin'

It seems to be fashionable now to forecast that cash will soon be abolished.


With another major hack attack and data breach that hit the federal government just announced yesterday, do you really think electronic payments are secure enough to be the only method of payment?

Not on your life.

Sure, we can envision such an outcome when everyone has a bank account, when everyone has access to computers and when all online data is absolutely secure, but when exactly will that be?

No one can know.

Certainly a good start would be to make the tax records secure at the Internal Revenue Service.

While I might have a choice as to whether I pay for my morning coffee with cash or a credit card, I have no choice about paying my taxes.

Mandated use of non-cash payments does not seem ready for prime time just yet even if the National Bank of Denmark is broaching the subject.

I have had an email or two from readers who mentioned that they had had their tax refunds hijacked by criminals.

Sure, ultimately they can get this straightened out, but what if they were counting on a repaid refund to pay a major bill coming due?

The delay can be costly.

Sorry, we’ll repossess your new refrigerator.

What if your bank account is drained because your debit card information was taken?

While bad outcomes happen nowadays even as cash still exists, imagine the opportunity for criminals when all of your financial transactions and background data would be exposed each and every time you ever bought anything.

Cash at least offers some risk mitigation.

If I pay cash for coffee, cash for lunch and cash to fill up my car at the local gas station, I reduce the number of times I expose my financial records to databases that can be hacked.

While every reader of Numismatic News knows or can know that I often eat at the Crystal Cafe, the environment of all electronic payments opens the possibility of my doctor, my medical insurer and my employer accessing records to determine whether my eating out habits comply with whatever medical goals they set for me.

While my doctor might want to ask me how often I indulge in that big slice of pie, I would at least like to think I am the gatekeeper in control of that information.

Criminals, big brother and busybodies shouldn’t be able to find this out with just a few mouse clicks.

I expect I am not the only one to feel vulnerable this way.

Someday the security concerns will be addressed.

That someday has not yet arrived.

Cash may be old-fashioned. Cash might not earn airline miles. But cash still has its uses. As long as it does, it will not be abolished.

Circulation finds will, as a result, remain possible for years to come.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."