Bitcoin a lifeline for sex workers, like ex-nurse making $1.3 million

So DiAngelo did what other sex workers do: She “platform hopped,” meaning that she brought her money to another bank. When they also flagged and closed her account, she moved on to the next. After being shut out of a third bank, DiAngelo says she turned exclusively to bitcoin for her online banking needs. 

“We will change, we will pivot, we’ll go to other platforms,” Knox said. “This is just a constant like jumping through hoops cycle.”

Later, in 2016, Coinbase closed her account and blocked her from making others. (Coinbase acknowledged to CNBC that its terms of service prohibit the use of its “commerce or retail services connected to adult content.”)

Mastercard confirmed the meeting with Evans, saying that the company “welcomes dialogue and different perspectives” about its policies and programs.

“I just kind of left it on the backburner and would collect it whenever people would pay me in it,” said Knox, who tells CNBC she still holds a good portion of her crypto stake. “I collected till about 2017 and then crypto went crazy. It was one of those things where I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this was an accidental great investment for me.'”

Beyond price volatility, trading in crypto often incurs extra fees.

“Buying the crypto to pay for [ads] was always fraught with all these hidden fees that these trading sites would be charging,” said San Francisco-based Maxine Doogan, who has been working as a prostitute for more than thirty years. 

Instead of using a traditional exchange like Coinbase, Doogan instead goes through a convoluted process that involves finding an intermediary via a trading site, and then depositing cash into that person’s bank account, trusting that they will then electronically transfer bitcoin into her crypto wallet. Some of these intermediaries will accept gift cards. Others ask sex workers to buy a regular “vanilla” credit card and send them the numbers, in hopes that they’ll follow through on the trade.

DiAngelo says that in the early days of crypto, she would use bitcoin ATMs at liquor stores and gas stations to deposit cash to buy bitcoin. These machines charge commissions above and beyond the cost of the transaction.

Another major problem relates to the rules that govern cryptocurrency exchanges. Many platforms like Coinbase require know-your-customer, or KYC compliance. In practice, that means having to connect an ID and bank account to the platform – a non-starter for many working in the industry. 

Because of this, some workers later find they can’t cash out the crypto they have earned for products or services rendered.

While there are tokens designed with privacy and anonymity in mind (zcash and monero, for example), the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is transparent by design, leading some in the industry to worry that with the right tools and crypto know-how, friends, family, or the government technically have the ability to track their steps.

But Rae remains convinced that cryptocurrency is the future for the sex work industry.

“Cryptocurrency is our only option. I don’t feel like we’re going to survive under stricter and stricter rules from the banking industry,” said Rae.

“For people like me making millions of dollars, a thirty day notice from OnlyFans would be the end of us. Crypto really feels like it’s kinda it, otherwise we’re going to be controlled forever and who knows the kind of content they’re going to continue to ban. They can turn you off tomorrow.”

This content was originally published here.

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