Visa, MasterCard Cut Ties With After Pressure From Law Enforcement

After pressure from law enforcement, both Visa and MasterCard have announced they will no longer process payments for classified ads on The site has often been criticized for its “Adult” section, which some say makes it easy for pimps and sex traffickers to solicit customers for sex.

Illinois’ Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart sent a letter to both companies on Monday, asking them to bar patrons from using them cards to purchase ads on the site, reports the Wall Street Journal. Dart has been on’s case for some time, tracking solicitations for prostitution. The classified ads site features subcategories in the Adult section like for “escorts,” “male escorts,” “body rubs” and other things.

In his letter, Dart asked MasterCard and Visa to “immediately cease and desist from allowing your credit cards to be used to place ads on websites like, which we have objectively found to promote prostitution and facilitate online sex trafficking.”

“After years of unchecked growth in the online sex trade, it has become increasingly indefensible for any corporation to continue to willfully play a central role in an industry that reaps its cash from the victimization of women and girls across the world,” the sheriff wrote.

MasterCard announced yesterday that it’d be cutting ties with, with Visa following suit today.

“They are being removed as a merchant in our system based on a request from the sheriff’s office that we received,” a MasterCard spokesman said on Tuesday, according to the WSJ.

“MasterCard has rules that prohibit our cards from being used for illegal or brand-damaging activities. When the activity is confirmed, we work with the merchant’s bank to resolve the situation,” the company told the Chicago Tribune.

Visa chimed in today as well.

“Visa has taken action to stop processing payments for and the merchant’s acquirers have confirmed that they have suspended acquiring. Visa’s rules prohibit our network from being used for illegal activity,” spokesman John Earnhardt said in a statement on behalf of the company. “Visa has a long history of working with law enforcement to safeguard the integrity of the payment system and we will continue to do so.”

The WSJ cites people familiar with the matter who say American Express previously stopped processing ad payments on the site earlier this year.

This isn’t the first case of cutting straight straight to the middlemen who move the money in an attempt to take down illegal content online: In November, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont wrote to the heads of Visa and MasterCard asking them stop serving file-sharing sites.

MasterCard Stops Processing Purchases of Ads on [Wall Street Journal]
MasterCard says its cards can’t be used to pay for adult ads on Backpage [Chicago Tribune]
Visa follows MasterCard, cuts off business with [USAToday]

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