A Chicago woman who is Muslim claims a mobile payment service racially profiled her when the company flagged a recent payment to her friend labeled with the Arabic form of "Amen."
Nabeela Rasheed said she paid her friend for breakfast via Venmo on Jan. 19 and labeled the payment “Ameen, Ameen” to say thank you.
The transaction felt routine, Rasheed said, so she was surprised when Venmo sent her a notice about her payment being flagged/delayed until she explained what she meant by “Ameen, Ameen” and what the payment was for.
“I am sick to my stomach," Rasheed said in a Facebook post. "I really don’t want to be placated by anyone telling me that this is just how it is. I want to hear why it is this way."
In response to an inquiry from NBC 5, Venmo said it aims to make sure payments "comply with applicable law."
"Paypal and Venmo take regulatory and compliance obligations seriously, including U.S. economic and trade sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control," Venmo said in a statement.
OFAC responded by written statement saying the office does not "speculate on the applicability of sanctions in specific scenarios, as any determination would be based on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.”
“If I used dancing girls and breakfast emojis, maybe it would have been fine," the victim said.
In the meantime, Rasheed said this has a larger impact than the explanation of one payment.
"I am hurt. I am offended," she wrote on Facebook. "I know that I live in a country that considers me a second class citizen.”