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Venmo Keeps Flagging Payments for Cuban Food As Potential U.S. Trade Violations

Just keep labeling it “drugs.” Photo: Joel Sowers/flickr

Some innocent Venmo users have noticed a funny thing happens when they try splitting a bill specifically for Cuban food: Eyebrows suddenly raise at the Treasury Department, causing Venmo’s compliance team to place a 48-hour block on the payment pending a “detailed explanation of what you intended to pay for.” (“Illegal arms” would not be a good follow-up answer.) Employees at BuzzFeed are the latest to groan at Venmo’s hypervigilance, though it looks like people have been airing complaints about it for months on Twitter.

BuzzFeed’s team tried divvying up the cost of a work lunch of Cuban sandwiches, and the app flagged a payment request simply described as “Cuban.” By way of explanation, Venmo told the site that it takes U.S. trade sanctions “seriously,” especially for money transfers involving “foreign countries … on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list maintained by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.” Cuban could describe the cuisine you ate, or the money you’re secretly funneling to a communist dictator — hard to say, really. BuzzFeed says Venmo gives you 15 days to offer proof.

Silly as this is, in recent months plenty of people (even New York’s own Aude White) have had to do it following Cuba references:

As always, the obvious answer to this is more and better food emojis.

Venmo Flags Cuban-Food Payments As Possible Trade Violations