Risks of Fraud Higher in Cashless Society: Advocacy Group Warns

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The spokesperson for advocacy group Cash Welcome, Jason Bryce, has warned Australians about the imminence of a cashless society, saying the erosion of physical currencies will undermine the freedoms of everyday individuals. “Banks sit at the heart of our economic system and are now herding us into their privately owned cashless transaction systems that are unreliable,” Mr. Bryce told the Epoch Times. “They harvest our data, we don’t know what’s going on with our information, whether it’s being used for our benefit or being used to sell us something. We don’t know who has our information. There’s not one Australian now who’s in total control of their personal identity.” Mr. Bryce highlighted the increased vulnerability that Australians may be subjected to as a result of digital forms of currency. He also touched on the nationwide, en masse closure of bank branches. “Fraud, scams—these are all at a record high and we’re all totally vulnerable. There’s a financial crime crisis going on at the moment and it’s all online. It’s no longer the situation that criminals prefer cash. Criminals prefer Bitcoin. Criminals prefer cryptocurrencies,” he said. The non-profit organisation found that throughout July alone, 47 percent of scam funds were sent to accounts associated with crypto exchanges. A number of Australia’s prominent commercial banks have recently taken action to mitigate financial crimes surrounding digital currencies. In May, Westpac began trialling consumer protection initiatives, one of which was the implementation of a ban on customers attempting to transfer funds to and from Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange. In April, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) revoked Binance’s license to facilitate the sale of derivatives after it found the exchange had erroneously classified hundreds of retail customers as wholesale investors. Binance was sued in March by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)—the U.S. commodity markets regulator—accusing the company of bypassing American law. In May, the National Australia Bank (NAB) also blocked payments to some “high-risk” exchanges, claiming the measures will save customers from scams that swiftly funnel their money offshore. “Often our customers only discover they’ve been scammed after the money has left the country, making recovery extremely difficult.” Online activities surrounding cryptocurrencies can leave participants particularly susceptible to fraud for a number of reasons. Cryptocurrency transactions are generally irreversible, meaning that once a transaction is completed on a blockchain, it is virtually impossible to undo. Transactions are also often pseudonymous, so users are typically associated with encrypted addresses rather than their personal information. Approximately three-quarters of these transactions were made using debit and credit cards, the most common form of retail payment. About 75 percent of card payments in Australia were made with a debit card during the 2021/22 FY, compared with 62 percent a decade previously. The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the transition, with spending on debit cards around 40 percent higher in the first half of 2022 than in the second half of 2019. Federal Labor MP for Pearce in Western Australia warned the Parliament of the dangers of a cashless society, including risks to security, privacy, costs, and the impact on small businesses.

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