• 11 March 2016
  • Posted By Joe Molnar
  • Sanctions

Why is Venmo Targeting Norooz?

Critics of the Iran nuclear deal have a lot of concerns. Some claim the Ayatollahs are now literally swimming in pools filled with sweet American cash. Others are distraught that Iranians may no longer be resigned to travel via flying coffins now that Airbus and Boeing are allowed upgrade the country’s civilian airliners.

But the real threat from Iran is far more nefarious: Norooz, the Iranian new year.

Who can protect the free world from the treacherous spread of holiday cheer and delicious food? One company, Venmo, is taking the threat seriously:

Thanks to ongoing financial sanctions and a U.S. trade embargo on Iran that remains in place even post-nuclear deal, companies like Venmo must navigate a myriad of due diligence requirements. And–perhaps given the billions that banks have been fined in the past under sanctions–Venmo is taking its responsibilities very, very seriously. How? By ensuring nobody sends transactions with such nefarious terms as “Iran” or “Persian”.

Do not be fooled, there is nothing harmless about the Iranian threat:

Venmo is on a very successful streak of identifying troublesome elements within the US who have attempted to use its services for other nefarious purposes. They caught one offender who had the gall to reference the name “Ahmed” in a transaction description:

Yesterday a tipster emailed us with a bizarre story: Venmo had frozen her friend’s account over a $40 transaction to her boyfriend. The reason? Her friend had mistakenly typed the name “Ahmed” in the memo—and “Ahmed,” Venmo claimed, was on a Treasury Department list of suspected terrorists, drug runners, and money launderers. “It’s nonsensical,” a lawyer who specializes in international trade regulations told us.

They have even decrypted coded symbols such as the so-called “fire emoji,” probably related to some violent intent:

Venmo’s sensors even manage to stumble on actual violations of sanctions on occasion, including such harmful activities as supporting refugees from Syria.

These efforts, while novel in their scope, are nothing new. Over the past several years across corporate America, companies have been falling over themselves to ensure maximum enforcement of sanctions. Past acts of heroism include Apple refusing to sell products to Iranian Americans and Bank of America’s suspension of accounts owned by Iranian students. Sanctions even convinced University of Massachusetts Amherst and Virginia Commonwealth University to briefly refuse to admit Iranian students. Unfortunately their resolve would prove weak on this decision that was labeled “discrimination.”

Hopefully, Venmo will not falter like others before it. Venmo, knight of freedom, guardian of America, may children sing of your deeds for ages to come. As long as none of those children are named Ahmed.

Posted By Joe Molnar

    4 Responses to “Why is Venmo Targeting Norooz?”

  1. TonyS says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry!

  2. Kam Eftekhar says:

    I think the company’s name should be Venom.

  3. gloriana casey says:

    Wow, Venmo———–Norooz in the Spring time is a great idea. In fact, a new year in the ancient world was at this time, because it was a new growing season—SPRING! This brought new plants life and animal life after the cold time of winter. This is the season time when a NEW year makes sense.

    So, Venmo, I am not Iranian——-but with your mean spirited comment—– you got my IRISH up now! Maybe you should try the Norooz spirit and make a NEW WORLD of KINDNESS—-try it—it’s exactly what the world needs now! : )

  4. Armin A. says:

    I had the exact same issue using PayPal last month when I used ‘Persian’ in the subject line of a US domestic transfer. They held up the payment for a week and I had to submit justification for the transfer – simply because of the use of Persian. It eventually got cleared up – but it was a frustrating experience.

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