Banks turn up the heat on mug shot websites

Big banks are jumping on the band wagon to help shut down the mug shot industry.

In what has become the latest effort to stop unscrupulous and unfair business practices among the operators of websites which post booking photographs of individuals who have been arrested, MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express, and Paypal are each in talks to end their relationship with Internet mug shot companies.

When a person is arrested, his or her mug shot photo is obtained from law enforcement agencies by numerous websites which display the photos on the Internet and demand payment sometime up to $400 for its removal, even when charges are dropped or dismissed. In some instances, mug shot companies will remove a photo at no charge if proof of exoneration is provided. However, for the vast majority of these websites, a mug shot serves as a permanent reminder of an exercise in poor judgment. Most agree, a mug shot plastered all over the Internet should not have the power to dictate employment, dating, and other aspects of a person’s life. But, for millions of Americans, this is a sad and unfortunate realization.

By cutting them off financially, banks have essentially prevented mug shot websites from processing payments for the removal of mug shots. As of October, American Express, Discovery, MasterCard, and Paypal had completely severed ties with the mug shot industry. Although, when contacted, some mug shot customer service agents still claim to be able to process a payment for mug shot removal. This may be due to a 30 day “warning period” in which banks give to their business clients.

Officials at VISA reported that it would instruct issuing banks to verify if the actions of mug shot clients were illegal, and if so, cut them off. As of today, VISA continues to provide payment processing services for mug shot companies.

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