What is it

If sex workers had to name one problem in their industry these days it would quickly be about banks. But a lot is moving, and hopefully it will improve.

Banks execute what the government tells them to. So part of the problem is with the government, but another problem is that banks are doing too well. Because they are afraid of fines from the government.

First, there is the European AML5 directive. AML stands for Anti Money Laundering, which is money laundering. This directive is applied more strictly than necessary and in case of doubt a client is immediately excluded. The fact that banks have a social function is ignored.

Second, there is the WWTF. The Law for the prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism the Dutch law applies the European directive. This law prescribes that you must know your customer (KYC, Know Your Customer) and that you must know where the customer's money comes from and what the customer uses the money for. Particular attention is paid to unusual transactions. The cash deposits of sex workers and operators they easily find unusual, but of course in our industry it is not. Unusual, then, does not mean wrong. How else would licensed sex businesses have passed the Bibob (an integrity assessment). The sex industry is on the list of high-risk sectors. That list leads to categorical exclusions, think of the car trade, coffee shops, call stores.

Not only do banks monitor every addition and debit to your account, which is already a significant invasion of privacy, but they now want the ability to share that information with each other, so that if your bank account is cancelled you have nowhere else to go. And we all know that a bank account has become as important as water, energy or the Internet.


What it can mean for a sex worker

For sex workers, this means that they are happy to participate in payment transactions both with cash and digitally, but that both the sex worker and the client are not always happy to reveal their real names. Sometimes, the use of cash is used against sex workers, even though it is a legal service. And it is not the only service where more than average people pay with cash. But sex workers cannot do without digital payment options. Salaries no longer go into a pay packet, rent is no longer paid at a counter, and corona has accelerated this even further.

You may deposit a maximum of 10,000 euros at the bank at a time. In a store you may pay with up to 3,000 euros in cash. Above that it must be reported to the Unusual Transactions Disclosure Office. At the ING bank, make sure you do not deposit more than 3,000 euros per day (you may deposit 10,000 euros over three days).

Sex workers are often excluded from portions of the payment system. They have their own bank account, but no business one. Or that "green" banks want nothing to do with sex work and sex workers have less freedom of choice and are forced to go to banks that, for example, invest in weapons.

For example, Proud was excluded by Triodosbank because they 'do not invest in the porn industry'. They ignored the defence that they were an advocate of human rights. Even the Minister of Finance, Dijsselbloem, did not think it was a problem, 'because Proud could still go to other banks'.

Increasingly, sex workers and operators are called by the bank and have to explain deposits, withdrawals or expenses. This can lead to a blocking of the account or, if the account is maintained, a substantial increase in bank fees.

Gift Cards

Precisely because of the anonymity, anonymous prepaid cards are sometimes used. The limits have been lowered and as a result, the companies that issue gift cards have capped the online spending limit at 50 euros. They should also be wary of 'smurfing', in which case larger amounts are split. For amounts greater than 50 euros, the issuer would have to investigate the person redeeming the card.


What can you do

Together we are strong. Particularly within the SWAD consultations with banks and politicians are taking place. The current government agreement states that financial services should be made accessible to sex workers. An important step in the consultation was taken in November 2023: It should be easier for sex workers to open a business account.

If you have individually experienced a problem with your bank, you can report it to the Complaint Desk and at the Financial Complaints Institute.

Furthermore, there is the Cash Covenant. You can use that to explain to your bank that they shouldn't make things difficult when using legitimate cash. The ordinary bank employee probably doesn't know that, but you should point that out to them: See:

That covenant has the following key elements in it:

-Cash is a legal tender, the legitimate use of which should not be hindered. DNB understands 'legitimate use' to include transactions that do not have a criminal background.

-The sector to which a customer belongs may be a signal for further investigation. But any measures around cash use should be targeted at individual customers and not an entire sector.


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