Bread. Clams. Scratch. Moolah. Dinero. Whatever you call it, money makes the world go around. It's what developed societies use instead of the barter system. Money makes it easy to store and exchange value.

Imagine trying to barter your way from cherry pies toward a new pickup truck. Or trying to trade handmade wool socks for a night at the Park Place Hotel. Our system of money is what makes modern commerce possible.

I remember those long-ago days when everyone carried cash. You know — greenbacks, those pieces of flimsy paper that lived in your purse or wallet.

Paper money was good everywhere, from a street vendor at the National Trout Festival in Kalkaska, to Milliken's Department Store in Traverse City, to Disneyland in Orlando.

Sure, paper bills tend to get dirty and eventually wear out. And if your wallet was lost or stolen, the greenbacks it contained were just gone. Businesses, too, could be hurt if they unknowingly accepted counterfeit money, fell victim to a safecracker, or an employee was robbed on the way to the bank.

The logistics of money security have changed in recent years. Everyone, for the most part, now carries credit and debit cards instead of cash. A stolen credit card generally costs the loser just $50.

But losing a physical card is just the beginning. In the days of cash, a stolen wallet was a one-time deal. The money was gone. Period.

These days, a stolen wallet can mark the beginning of a long string of mayhem that can leave the loser tearing their hair out in frustration. Credit card scammers can take money you don't even have.

Scammers who acquire your credit card number (they don't even need the physical card) can charge boat rentals in the Bahamas and long johns in New Brunswick. The consumer may not be liable for bogus charges, but it's still plenty scary to get a bill for purchases you didn't make.

Identity theft is the pinnacle of modern pickpocketing. Equipped with a few of a consumer's numbers, a scammer can set up new credit card accounts, charge them to the max, and walk away — if they don't get caught. The poor consumer may be left with months or years of trying to reclaim their economic identity and their devastated credit rating.

Personal economic security measures have changed. Instead of old-fashioned money belts stuffed with $20 bills, the modern consumer uses an RFID case to keep electronic scanners away from the chips embedded in their credit cards, debit cards and drivers license.

Technology is amazing. It's possible to carry the purchasing power of thousands of dollars in a single plastic card.

Unfortunately, it's also possible for thieves to steal your money and identity while enjoying a cup of coffee.

But we all need to go out into society and buy stuff — unless Amazon completely takes over the world. Whether you buy at a local store or online, we all generally use convenient credit cards, and that's not likely to change soon. We just need to be vigilant.

Contact Business Editor Dan Nielsen at 231-933-1467 or dnielsen@record-eagle.com.

Business Editor