Prepaid cards replace credit for Internet porn


Prepaid cards used for Internet child abuse

Prepaid cards are increasingly being used on the growing number of websites showing inappropriate images of children, since credit cards are no longer accepted.

'Anonymous' prepaid cards
Speaking in Parliament recently, Geraint Davies explained that prepaid cards worth up to £100 can be purchased at shops and service stations anonymously. Putting forward a 10-minute rule motion, which is designed to highlight an issue that is unlikely to be involved in new legislation, he expressed his concerns about individuals using prepaid cards to view images of child pornography online.

"The new route for users is to hide their identity," he said. "All the buyer has to do is put in a name and address, say Donald Duck and Buckingham Palace, and away he goes."

Card industry 'cannot police itself'
Mr Davies explained that offenders are now turning to prepaid cards for this type of activity as action has been taken to stop credit and debit cards being used in this way. He recommended that people buying the cards should be required to show a proof of identity, with card companies being liable for penalties in instances of child abuse images being downloaded.

"The simple fact is that we can't rely, as some people think we can, on the card industry itself to police itself," he said. "The card companies are simply not taking pre-emptive action. There is a lot of money involved and no appetite for voluntary industry action."

Strong response by Visa Europe
Both of the companies cited by Mr Davies, Visa and MasterCard, vehemently claimed that they are doing everything in their power to stop the criminal activity. Visa Europe explained that its stance on child abuse is "unequivocal," noting that for the past eight years, it has been scanning the web for sites selling indecent images and using the firm's logo.

"Visa Europe deplores the commercial exploitation of child abuse images and we do not allow Visa products of any type -- debit, credit or prepaid -- to be used to purchase child pornography," read a statement.

"Wherever we find a site offering such material for sale via Visa payment cards, we alert our banks and the law enforcement agencies. Our rules stipulate clearly that our member banks must terminate the acquiring contracts with these merchants."

MasterCard Worldwide taking 'aggressive' stance
MasterCard Worldwide was similarly forthright in its assessment of the situation, explaining that it always works "aggressively" to crack down on illegal activity involving its payment network. The company revealed that it is in discussions with Mr Davies to determine any further measures it can adopt to address the prepaid card issue.

Furthermore, it noted that its membership of the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Online is helping its quest to remove child abuse images from the internet.

"Only through this partnership will we be able to stop the flow of funds that support the use of child abuse images on the internet and hopefully move quickly toward eliminating it altogether," it said.

Published: 23 July 2010