Venmo is one of the hottest apps on the market today, particularly among the younger generation known as millennials. The app, which is owned by PayPal, simplifies the process of settling payments between individuals, allowing users to pay one another via a number of different account sources with a few simple taps and clicks. Along with this ease of use and the demographic with which Venmo is especially popular comes news from a survey by Lend Edu that a substantial minority of millennials have used the payments app to buy illicit drugs.
Nearly 33% Indicate Drug Purchases on Venmo
Lend Edu is a fintech firm which focuses on millennial habits and student loans, among other issues. The recent survey sampled 1,217 current college students in June of 2017. The results, reported on in an article by Quartz, suggest that 32.7% of the respondents had used Venmo to pay for marijuana, Aderall, or cocaine.
Venmo's Terms of Service Prohibit Purchasing Drugs
Venmo's terms of service prohibit the use of its payments platform for gambling or drug payments. In a statement to Quartz, representatives for the app indicated that the company would take compliance with the law seriously. Venmo suggested that "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."
Still, the authors of the Quartz report suggest that "Venmo's use as a conduit for drug payments is something of an open secret." There is a popular website called Vicemo which tracks the public feed of Venmo transactions in order to determine "who's buying drugs, booze, and sex" through the app. That being said, users have been caught in the past. A man in New York City was arrested for dealing drugs to students at Columbia University and accepting Venmo payments in exchange back in 2015.
Drugs may not be the only illegal activity going on through Venmo's payments system. The Quartz article indicates that Venmo may be a hotspot for illegal sports betting, with an analysis showing that a spike in payments occurred incorporating mentions of the NCAA basketball championships close to the end times of the games. 21% of millennial respondents to another Lend Edu survey also indicated that they used Venmo for betting.
All of this does not seem to have slowed down Venmo's ascendence, though. The app processed about $17.6 billion in payments last year. The app is attempting to generate new revenue by charging merchants to use it; individual users can continue to use the service for free, whether or not they're conducting illegal transactions via Venmo.