Report: Certain terrorism-related words can block online payments

Apr 14, 2016, 6:25 AM | Updated: 2:57 pm
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)...
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

PHOENIX — Some online payments might be blocked for those who put words related to terrorism or terrorist activities in the memo, according to a new report from

Money transfer sites and apps like Venmo may halt payments if the memo contains red flag words or even mention countries like Iran or Syria.

Those companies and financial institutions are required by the government to block and report illegal payments to terrorists.

Since computers are looking for those key words, even a harmless payment described by the words “Cuban food” could be placed under review, said Dr. Jon Haass, professor at Embry Riddle’s College of Security and Intelligence.

“(The computers) don’t have any judgment,” he said. “(Computers) can’t look at (the payment) and say, ‘Oh, look, it’s a birthday party for Shaina, she’s 9-years-old and she loves the Iranian flag.’”

If a financial institution fails to block a payment that is deemed illegal, it could be fined $250,000.

Haass said the online money transfer sites and banks would rather take all precautions necessary, even if the payment is harmless.

But if your payment is flagged, Haass said it is best to call up the representative for the website or your bank.

“The last thing you’d want is to have (the payment) flagged and then later it goes through,” he said. “And then you wind up going ahead and paying it again, taking the harmful reference to Iran out of the payment and now the person is getting paid twice.”

He said the solution to avoid this problem is simple: avoid any terrorism-related words or countries in online payment memos. Haass also said it’s a good idea to be less verbose when describing your transaction.

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Report: Certain terrorism-related words can block online payments