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    Keeping Kids Off the Streets: A Third of Millennials Use Venmo to Buy Drugs

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    One thing’s (always) for certain: the times, they are a’changing. If back in the day drug deals were the stuff of neglected street corners and shady back alleys, it seems tech-savvy millennials are upgrading and using apps to get the dirty deed done.

    According to a new survey commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by Whatsgoodly, 32.6 percent of 1,217 college-aged students polled said they’d used mobile payment service Venmo to purchase drugs, including marijuana, adderall, cocaine and other illicit substances. 

    Venmo told Quartz in a statement that it takes compliance with the law extremely seriously, and that any users abusing the service for gambling and drug payments are in clear violation of its terms of service. 

    "If there is ever a situation where evidence of gambling or other illegal activity is brought to our attention, Venmo works quickly to take appropriate action," the company’s statement read. 

    Venmo, acquired in 2013 by PayPal, allows users to use their debit and credit cards to pay debts without the hassle of making a trip to the bank.  

    LendEDU conducted a survey in 2016 that showed more than 500,000 Venmo transactions were used for beer, pizza and fantasy football. It was a quick jump from there to a new survey, to see just how many millennials were using the app for taboo items like drugs and gambling. As it turns out, only 21 percent of millennials polled were using the mobile payment app for gambling.

    While youngsters might think they’re jumping ahead of the curve with their innovative methods to conduct illegal business, it seems many may have missed the part about Venmo keeping track of activity on the platform, which requires users to enter a description for each transaction, whether it’s with words or emojis.

    Screenshot of Vicemo, a site tracking 'drugs, booze and sex' transactions on Venmo
    Screenshot of Vicemo, a site tracking 'drugs, booze and sex' transactions on Venmo

    According to the site Vicemo, several people in its study indicated they’d use “drug” emojis for Venmo’s mandatory transaction description. Buying marijuana or prescription pills, for example, can be expressed with a simple leaf or pill emoji. 

    Just like any regular bank or credit card statement, all payments on Venmo can be traced. Sometimes, the old ways – in this case pressing paper to palm – are better.  

    Having processed $17.6 billion in payments in just 2016, the PayPal payment app is on track to process $20 billion in transactions. No word on just how much of that is going toward illegal goodies. 

    Update: a statement from PayPal and Venmo is published below.

    PayPal and Venmo take compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations seriously. As clearly outlined in the Venmo User Agreement, people are prohibited from using Venmo for gambling or payments that involve drugs. If there is ever a situation where evidence of gambling or other illegal activity is brought to our attention, Venmo works quickly to take appropriate action.

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