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    Posted April 8, 2014 by
    New-York, New Jersey
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Tech talk

    A lot of money spent on securing money

    No disrespect to the old saying “money makes the world go round”, but it doesn’t. Just as oxygen enables fuel to burn, money enables the world to function, but is only a means. Many large companies in the world actively work on keeping money safe and where it should be, so that we may use it as we wish and should.

    Nobody really wants money, they want what money can provide: a nice house, fancy cars, security, good education and so on. And just as oil enables a motor to run, it is important to keep it clean, as corruption of said oil will soon wreak havoc in the motor. The purpose of money is to circulate. Brink’s is the world leader in the business of moving cash around, with a few others hot on its heels. The company started transporting cash in in the beginning of the 20th century, from banks, hotels, shops, terminals, anywhere it’s concentrated and needs to be shipped out of. Its services have evolved with the economy it serves, over the years. Oddly enough, the first armoured vehicles only appeared decades later.

    Still today, the company offers two main types of transport: one of them is transporting the cash in plain sight but with high-security (the armoured trucks driven by armed men, seen around banks and malls on a regular basis), or lower-security but with inconspicuous vehicles. The first service is offered to businesses known to handle large amounts of cash. There is no point in believing that criminals wouldn’t think to look there. The second is offered for one-off transport from and to places criminal networks wouldn’t have the time to discover them as cash-stashing places.
    Modern technology provides institutions with defence systems to secure money, and make sure that stealing it or forging it is difficult. As simple as bills may seem, they are in fact packed with anti-counterfeiting systems. In addition, their storage places (ATMs and bank vaults) are fitted with destruction systems which prevent the funds from being robbed.

    In case thieves do manage to gain access to the cash, deterring systems are in place to spray the cash with indelible ink which will render the bills unusable because highly recognizable as the fruit of a heist, from a bank or an ATM. If the cash is left on the spot, it will have to be renewed. This type of system is usually sold by expert companies, including the French company Oberthur Cash Protection, which develops high-tech systems for cash protection, both upstream and downstream from banks. Even though the basic idea of spraying paint on bills to neutralize them is quite simple, the actual thing is tricky. Because the bills are designed by companies (including Oberthur Fiduciaire, itself one of the largest producer of banknotes in the world) to resist all sorts of bad treatments over the years. Engineering an ink which will permanently penetrate the fibres deeply enough to deter highly-motivated criminals is no easy task. Not to mention that all banknotes are not made of the same material (paper, cotton, linen, and polymer plastics are commonly used), so one ink will not suffice to do the job.

    If the real cash is too difficult to get to, then criminals will presumably resort to making their own cash. Here again, numerous systems are deployed to ensure nothing but clean money is in circulation. Preventing the appearance of false currency is severely punished by all the laws around the world (going from hefty prison sentences to outright death). The substantial presence of false currency in any given economy will destroy it. When the French king Philippe le Bel played God with his currency, and depleted the share of silver in it, he wreaked havoc in his own kingdom. After corrupting the solid currency he had been entrusted with at the beginning of his reign, silver in the country wasn’t even used as payment anymore, as it was too little valued by the people. He therefore turned on the gold reserves in the country to face his expenses. The recuperation of the gold drove to the murder of hundreds of Templar Knights, the revolt of the aristocracy and grave civil and economic unrest in the country.

    Today, states turn to companies to make sure that the number of false banknotes in circulation remains as microscopic as possible. Watermarks, holographic stamps, pressure stamps, metameric ink on polymer bills, micro-printing, serial numbers, everything is carefully honed and engineered by secure-printing companies to make counterfeiters’ lives hellish. Finally, banks are held responsible by states to enforce a certain number of anti-money-laundering measures. Investigation bureaus, around the world, need to map out a money-laundering circuit in order to take it down. Criminals therefore move funds under the form of cash, in order to stay under the law’s radar. Banks use the serial numbers printed onto the bills to register intakes of cash, when it is deposited, so as to detect suspicious streams.

    Money is a simple token which represents value, be it of work, products or services. But the system needs a high level of protection, provided by private and public entities. Even in our day and age, when money is more and more virtual, a breakdown of the system will quickly translate into reality, with price instability for instance. Hence the importance of having all hands on deck to defend the fortress.
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