Why Going Cashless Has Turned Sweden Into a High-Crime Nation

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Ellen Bagley was delighted when she made her first sale on a popular second-hand clothing app, but just a few minutes later, the thrill turned to shock as the 20-year-old from Linkoping in Sweden discovered she’d been robbed. Everything seemed normal when Bagley received a direct message on the platform, which asked her to verify personal details to complete the deal. She clicked the link, which fired up BankID — the ubiquitous digital authorization system used by nearly all Swedish adults.After receiving a couple of error messages, she started thinking something was wrong, but it was already too late. Over 10,000 Swedish kronor ($1,000) had been siphoned from her account and the thieves disappeared into the digital shadows. “The fraudsters are so skilled at making things look legitimate,” said Bagley, who was born after BankID was created. “It’s not easy” to identify scams. Although financial crime has garnered fewer headlines than a surge in gang-related gun violence, it’s become a growing risk for the country. Beyond its borders, Sweden is an important test case on fighting cashless crime because it’s gone further on ditching paper money than almost any other country in Europe.

Online fraud and digital crime in Sweden have surged, with criminals taking 1.2 billion kronor in 2023 through scams like the one Bagley fell for, doubling from 2021. Law-enforcement agencies estimate that the size of Sweden’s criminal economy could amount to as high as 2.5% of the country’s gross domestic product. To counter the digital crime spree, Swedish authorities have put pressure on banks to tighten security measures and make it harder on tech-savvy criminals, but it’s a delicate balancing act. Going too far could slow down the economy, while doing too little erodes trust and damages legitimate businesses in the process.Using complex webs of fake companies and forging documents to gain access to Sweden’s welfare system, sophisticated fraudsters have made Sweden a “Silicon Valley for criminal entrepreneurship,” said Daniel Larson, a senior economic crime prosecutor. While the shock of armed violence has grabbed public attention — the nation’s gun-homicide rate tripled between 2012 and 2022 — economic crime underlies gang activity and needs to be tackled as aggressively, he added. “That has been a strategic mistake,” Larson said. “This profit-generating crime is what’s fueling organized crime and, in some cases, leads to these conflicts.”

Sweden’s switch to electronic cash started after a surge of armed robberies in the 1990s, and by 2022, only 8% of Swedes said they had used cash for their latest purchase, according to a central bank survey. Along with neighboring Norway, Sweden has Europe’s lowest number of ATMs per capita, according to the IMF. The prevalence of BankID play a role in Sweden’s vulnerability. The system works like an online signature. If used, it’s considered a done deal and the transaction gets executed immediately. It was designed by Sweden’s banks to make electronic payments even quicker and easier than handing over a stack of bills. Since it’s original rollout in 2001, it’s become part of the everyday Swedish life. On average, the service — which requires a six-digit code, a fingerprint or a face scan for authentication — is used more than twice a day by every adult Swede and is involved in everything from filing tax returns to paying for bus tickets.Originally intended as a product by banks for their customers, its use exploded in 2005 after Sweden’s tax agency adopted the technology as an identification for tax returns, giving it the government’s official seal of approval. The launch of BankID on mobile phones in 2010 increased usage even further, along with public perception that associated cash with criminality.The country’s central bank has acknowledged that some of those connotations may have gone too far. “We have to be very clear that there are still honest people using cash,” Riksbank Governor Erik Thedeen told Bloomberg.

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Roblox Executive Says Children Making Money On the Platform Isn’t Exploitation, It’s a Gift

In an interview with Roblox Studio head Stefano Corazza, Eurogamer asked about the reputation Roblox has gained and the notion that it was exploitative of young developers, since it takes a cut from work sometimes produced by children. Here’s what he had to say: “I don’t know, you can say this for a lot of things, right?” Corazza said. “Like, you can say, ‘Okay, we are exploiting, you know, child labour,’ right? Or, you can say: we are offering people anywhere in the world the capability to get a job, and even like an income. So, I can be like 15 years old, in Indonesia, living in a slum, and then now, with just a laptop, I can create something, make money and then sustain my life. “There’s always the flip side of that, when you go broad and democratized – and in this case, also with a younger audience,” he continued. “I mean, our average game developer is in their 20s. But of course, there’s people that are teenagers — and we have hired some teenagers that had millions of players on the platform.

“For them, you know, hearing from their experience, they didn’t feel like they were exploited! They felt like, ‘Oh my god, this was the biggest gift, all of a sudden I could create something, I had millions of users, I made so much money I could retire.’ So I focus more on the amount of money that we distribute every year to creators, which is now getting close to like a billion dollars, which is phenomenal.”

At this point the PR present during the interview added that “the vast majority of people that are earning money on Roblox are over the age of 18.” “And imagine like, the millions of kids that learn how to code every month,” Corazza said. “We have millions of creators in Roblox Studio. They learn Lua scripting,” a programming language, “which is pretty close to Python – you can get a job in the tech industry in the future, and be like, ‘Hey, I’m a programmer,’ right? “I think that we are really focusing on the learning – the curriculum, if you want – and really bringing people on and empowering them to be professionals.”

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Uber-Like Surge Pricing Is Coming For Fast Food

Fast food chain Wendy’s announced it’s adopting a similar approach to Uber’s Surge Pricing policy by dynamically adjusting the prices of its menu items during peak demand periods at certain locations. The controversial strategy seeks to leverage real-time data to align pricing and demand, enhancing efficiency and potentially improving customer satisfaction. From a report: During a conference call earlier this month, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner said the fast-food chain would experiment with dynamic pricing as early as next year. “Beginning as early as 2025, we will begin testing more enhanced features like dynamic pricing and daypart offerings, along with AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling,” he said. “As we continue to show the benefit of this technology in our company-operated restaurants, franchisee interest in digital menu boards should increase, further supporting sales and profit growth across the system.”

Prices seesaw all the time on the sites of online retailers like Amazon that use algorithms and artificial intelligence to monitor competitors and glean insights into individual shoppers, adjusting prices depending on interest in the product or in the brand, said Timothy Webb, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware’s hospitality and sport business management program. Coupons and other offers are also routinely dangled in mobile apps to encourage people to make purchases. “A lot of this stuff is already happening even if you don’t realize that it is happening. If you have the Starbucks app and I have the Starbucks app, we probably have different offers,” Webb said. “We might not be in the drive-through and they just increased the prices, but we are already paying different prices for the same products.”

But, he says, Wendy’s fans will likely see moderate, not massive, price swings during periods of peak demand. “It’s not like $200 or $300 on a flight. This is a hypercompetitive industry. If Wendy’s goes up $2 to $3 on a burger at dinner time, I would be shocked. People have too many options. They will just walk down the street and eat at Burger King instead,” Webb said. “There will just be little price changes here.”

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God Told Him to Launch a Crypto Venture, Said Pastor. Now He’s Accused of Pocketing $1.2M

In Denver, Colorado, a pastor had a message for his congregation, reports CNN.

“After months of prayers and cues from God, he was going to start selling cryptocurrency, he announced in a YouTube video last April.”

The Signature and Silvergate banks had collapsed weeks earlier, signaling the need to look into other investment options beyond financial institutions, he said. With divine wisdom, he said, he was “setting the rails for God’s wealth transfer.” Shortly afterward, Regalado and his wife, Kaitlyn Regalado, launched a cryptocurrency, INDXcoin, and began selling it to members of his Victorious Grace Church and other Christian communities in the Denver area. They sold it through the Kingdom Wealth Exchange, an online cryptocurrency marketplace he created, controlled and operated.

The Regalados raised more than $3.2 million from over 300 investors, Tung Chang, Securities Commissioner for Colorado, said in a civil complaint. The couple’s sales pitches were filled with “prayer and quotes from the Bible, encouraging investors to have faith that their investment … would lead to ‘abundance’ and ‘blessings,'” the complaint said. But Colorado state regulators say that INDXcoin was “essentially worthless.” Instead of helping investors acquire wealth, the Regalados used around $1.3 million of the investment funds to bankroll lavish expenditures, including a Range Rover, jewelry, cosmetic dentistry and extravagant vacations, the complaint said. The money also paid for renovations to the Regalados’ Denver home, the complaint said.

In a stunning video statement posted online on January 19 — several days after the civil charges were filed — Eli Regalado did not dispute that he and his wife profited from the crypto venture. “The charges are that Kaitlyn and I pocketed 1.3 million dollars, and I just want to come out and say that those charges are true,” he said, adding, “A few hundred thousand dollars went to a home remodel that the Lord told us to do….”

Regalado also said that he and his wife used about half a million dollars of their investors’ funds to pay taxes to the IRS.

CNN reports that in videos Regalado explains how God “convinced him that it was a safe and profitable investment venture.” (“You read it correctly. God’s hand is on INDXcoin and we are launching!” explains the launch video’s description.)

“The Regalados used technical terms to confuse investors and misled them into believing that the coins were valued at between $10-$12 even though they were purchased for $1.50 or, at times, given away, the complaint said.”

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Famed Financial Analyst’s Final Forecast? ‘The Dollar is Finished’ as World Reserve Currency

An anonymous reader shared this report from the The New York Times:

Over his 54 years as a financial analyst, Richard X. Bove perfected the art of grabbing attention… American Banker once called him “the country’s most quotable bank analyst.” Last week, a few hours after completing a spot on Bloomberg television, the 83-year-old announced his retirement. He took that weekend off — and then jumped right back in. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bove (pronounced “boe-VAY”), who goes by Dick, shared a dire outlook on the U.S. economy and his former profession.

“The dollar is finished as the world’s reserve currency,” Mr. Bove said matter-of-factly, perched in an armchair outside his home office just north of Tampa, from which he predicted that China will overtake the U.S. economy. No other analysts will say the same because they are, as he put it, “monks praying to money,” unwilling to speak out on the mainstream financial system that employs them…

As he spoke, a technician was trying to restore his home internet after his final employer, the boutique brokerage Odeon Capital, pulled the plug on his last day…

He sees the offshoring of American manufacturing as the ultimate threat to the financial sector and the dollar, because “the people making the goods elsewhere are getting greater and greater control of the means of production and therefore greater and greater control of the world economy and therefore greater and greater control of money.”

The article notes that Bove was once called “The Loneliest Analyst.”

“One way that’s still true is that he endorses cryptocurrency — an area that few other financial analysts will touch — which he sees as a natural beneficiary of the decline of the dollar.”

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