PSA: Coinbase terminates accounts that mention illicit activities

According to an unlucky Coinbase user, even the jokes you make about illegal activities in user-to-user transactions will trigger an account termination on the popular Bitcoin wallet site.

Coinbase is a site that allows Bitcoin users to store bitcoins in an online digital wallet, a little bit like a bank account. This is convenient because Coinbase is one of few sites where you can easily make a bank transfer to purchase bitcoins.

The reason for this crackdown is that Coinbase wants to be compliant as a “money services business,” a U.S. federal classification for a variety of finance-related companies including those that do currency exchange, something that Coinbase most certainly does. A money service business has certain responsibilities to maintain compliance with federal law, most notably laws meant to prevent money laundering.

Well, as a Reddit user found out, that means Coinbase can’t have a sense of humor when you transfer bitcoins to someone and write “terrorism and drugs” as a message to the recipient.

Here’s a screen capture of the “incriminating” transaction:

That message, while almost certainly a joke, raises too many red flags for Coinbase to ignore as Bitcoin merchants come under greater scrutiny from regulators.

The same user who sent that bitcoin received this message from Coinbase shortly thereafter:

If you don’t like reading images, it basically says, “Sayonara!”

Well, not quite, as they do acknowledge that they know the message may have been meant in jest. More importantly, this person still has access to their bitcoins. If you pulled something like this with a conventional bank, you may very well see your assets frozen pending an investigation.

So, if you want to use an online wallet service like Coinbase (one that performs exchanges from one currency to another), you better be careful of things like this. An innocent joke can become a big problem.

[via Reddit]