Like anything else, terrorism requires funding. Assault weapons, bomb components, getaway cars, and flak jackets aren't cheap, and it's not as easy as it used to be to move money around the globe.
So, according to a Bloomberg Business report, accused San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook turned to Prosper Marketplace, an online peer-to-peer lender, taking out a $28,500 loan just a few weeks before he and his wife opened fire on a roomful of Farook's innocent and unarmed co-workers, killing 14 and wounding many more.
Investigators say the money was transferred to Farook's account in mid-November and may have been used to buy the guns and ammo used in the attack.
While no one is accusing Prosper of knowingly funding terrorism, the allegations are raising questions about whether online loan platforms are adequately regulated.
The idea behind Prosper and other online platforms, like Lending Club, is similar to other so-called peer-to-peer services -- they bring together people who have money with those who don't, to put it very simply.
The peer-to-peer lenders are not targeted to poor credit risks. Their major marketing appeal is that they offer better interest rates to borrowers and loans can often be completed more quickly than would be the case with a bank or other traditional lender.
They also offer larger loans than most other lenders. In Farook's case, his credit rating was presumably at least adequate since he was a college graduate with a longterm employment record but it would have been difficult for him to have put together $28,000 from credit cards or other readily available sources of funding, possibly leading him to Prosper.
While lenders have some flexibility in choosing which loans they participate in, the individual identity of borrowers is not revealed, so it would not have been possible for ISIS or its backers to fund Farook directly. But simply by making relatively large sums of money available quickly, the online lenders could be unwittingly aiding terrorists and other criminals, the Bloomberg report suggests.
No bells or whistles
Analysts say Farook would not have set off any bells and whistles in any cases. He was not known to be on any watch list, had no criminal record, had a good job, a college degree, and all the outward trappings of a solid middle-class life.
Even so, the online loan industry may have been facing increased regulation even before the Farook case. The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced that it was conducting a "request for information" about online lending. That's often the first step in the lengthy process of crafting new regulations.