A lovely story of Caledonian crime dropped in through the interweb tubes this weekend. It must have taken some balls to do it, so I have sneaking admiration for the ne’erdowells behind this one.
A cash machine has been stolen from the main arena area at the T in the Park festival.
My son went to this pop festival, as I believe they are known, last year. I armed him with Barclaycard bPay wristband to pay for essentials whilst bopping along to the variety of popular beat combos on show. This turned out to be completely pointless because a) no-one of the stall look cards, let along contactless and b) he lost the wristband on the first day. I’ve written before about cashlessnees in these environments (e.g., my expedition to the Roskilde Festival in Denmark) and I don’t want to go over old ground again, but the advantages of getting cash out of these environments are many and varied.
I have been to many of these “festivals” myself
How the braveheart burglars got away with this one I don’t know. You can hardly stick an ATM under your trench coat and I imagine ATMs have some sort of GPS tracing device on board so it’s hard to know how you can make off with one, but there you go. It’s time for action. They should ban cash completely from this sort of event. It is nothing but trouble. From tax-evading criminal gangs running some of the pitches to thefts and losses, to massive queues for ATMs, it is a hassle from beginning to end. The only reason to take cash to pop festivals, at least as far as I can recall from my time at such happenings, was to buy drugs.
We didn’t have mobile payments in my day
Nowadays the kids have Venmo and PingIt and debit cards and Bitcoin and iZettle and what not so there’s no need to put them in the vulnerable position of carrying cash. The market seems unable to provide a suitable payment mechanism, like Pop-PESA or something, so perhaps the Scottish authorities should step in and follow the trail blazed in Ohio. Since banks and card companies won’t provide a convenient and safe alternative to cash for the purchase of mind-altering chemicals other than alcohol and Night Nurse, the state should.
Ohio’s new medical marijuana law proposes a new way around the bank problem. The law allows state officials to set up a “closed loop” payment processing system, similar to prepaid debit and gift cards.
Why not provide prepaid pseudonymous debit cards so that they could be used for the purchase of both legitimate and illegitimate goods (not only at festivals) with a cryptographically protected link to real identity that would be revealed by the issuer only under appropriate legal circumstances (i.e., a warrant). Why is it a byproduct of buying anything at all that your identity is provided to your counterparty when it has nothing to do with the transaction? It’s for a new kind of blank debit card – no name, no number on the front, no CVV, no stripe – that can only be issued to adults.
We didn’t have mobile phones, so we had to talk to each other at festivals
There was a very good edition of “In Business” on the BBC recently where Peter Day visited Colorado and noted the problems associate with the use of cash (“armoured cars full of cash a common sight”). This is all because of the bizarre situation in the US where marijuana is legal in some states but you can’t use electronic payments to buy it.
But despite the legality of at least medical marijuana in many states, and the Department of Justice’s mostly hands-off approach to state-legal businesses, the federal ban still means that every financial institution serving marijuana businesses is theoretically violating anti-money laundering laws
This isn’t only about marijuana and pop festivals, of course. There is a general problem around the tension between social and financial inclusion, law enforcement and regulatory environments. John Vardaman, until recently with the Department of Justice, summed this up nicely in American Banker back in April, noting that “We’ve seen large financial institutions exiting what have been deemed high-risk areas categorically. The effect is that whole swaths of legitimate businesses have been frozen out of banking”. If we are going to take the risk-based approach to all of this seriously, it means making low-value, pseudonymous payment accounts available to all.