OnlyFans Under Investigation for Possible Links to Financial Crime

Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic caused near-record unemployment rates across the globe.

The Rise of OnlyFans

As millions of people were forced to find new ways to pay rent, the adult content site, OnlyFans, peaked in popularity – quickly becoming a household name and one of the most popular money-making platforms in the world.

The UK-headquartered site – which is known for hosting a significant volume of sexual and explicit content – allows content creators to charge customers a fee to view their nude pictures, videos and homemade amateur pornographic films.

Since its establishment in 2016, it has generated billions of dollars in revenue – and today, it boasts more than 1 million content creators and 100 million users.

The Reality of OnlyFans

But, behind this explosion of success are mounting allegations and concerns that the platform is being used as a vehicle to traffic drugs, launder money, and exploit children.

Despite the company’s own claims that they are not only meeting but also going “over and above” current regulations when it comes to upholding the safety and security of its users; experts and academics have found themselves questioning whether OnlyFans is actually doing enough to verify users or check where money is going.

As a result, it is understood that OnlyFans – amongst numerous other subscription-based sites – is being watched by Australian financial crime and law enforcement agencies.

An Intermediary

Essentially, OnlyFans acts as an intermediary between banks and recipients – with the platform, which currently lacks robust compliance policies, effectively creating a separate layer between the money launderer and the bank. With this, the risk of funds being used to bankroll crimes is heightened – given that banks and regulators are unable to establish who receives the payments.

Banks have a Role to Play

But, these banks and regulators have a duty to mitigate the risks that financial crime poses for communities and economies – which is why banks are legally required to self-report suspicious transactions.

The fact that, in 2020, Westpac had to pay a whopping $1.3 billion to Australian financial crime watchdog – AUSTRAC, after failing to flag suspicious transactions linked to child exploitation in Asia, serves as evidence of the consequences that can occur when these obligations are not upheld.

Put simply, in the case of OnlyFans, where a customer makes a payment for the service, the bank or institution needs to ensure the payment is not suspicious.

Looking Ahead

Although both Australia and New Zealand have strong financial regulations, this case highlights yet another way in which criminals are managing to explore and exploit alternative means to legitimise money.

It also serves as an important reminder of the need for key AML/CFT bodies to continue uniting, to monitor emerging and ever-evolving technology platforms and avenues.

We Can Help

While the investigation into OnlyFans continues, in the meantime, our highly specialised team here at One AML is available to provide more information surrounding these issues, as well as expert advice on how to remain vigilant and compliant.

Get in touch with us today.