You’re happily playing on your favourite bingo or slots site and suddenly, bam; you’re being asked to provide documents, and you’re left asking “what the heck is SOF?”
Maybe you went to withdraw, or maybe you just signed up- there are lots of reasons why a site might ask you to provide documents. Being asked to show your identification or financial info can feel like a huge invasion of privacy, not to mention an inconvenience, but did you know that lots of times when sites ask, it’s because of the law?
Understanding what they need from you and why can make the whole process just a little bit less frustrating, and frankly, less scary. Getting messages asking for your personal documents using words like legal requirement and account closure can be intimidating, but that’s why we’re here to help.
If you’ve never heard of SOF and you thought KYC was somewhere you could buy chicken, read on! OhMyBingo will help you sift through the jargon surrounding verification documents, so hopefully you’ll feel a little less like this guy:
Gambling in the UK is restricted to over-18s only, and the Gambling Commission is very strict on sites who don’t do enough to prevent underage gambling. As a result, your site will need to confirm your age very quickly after you sign up. Although you entered your date of birth, the site has a responsibility to check that it was entered correctly and honestly.
Some sites consider making a deposit from a credit card sufficient age verification, whereas others might ask you to send a photo of your driving licence or passport- it really depends on the site.
If you’re asked to provide a photo of your ID, the first thing to do is be absolutely sure the request is genuinely from your bingo or slots site! You don’t want to be sending your ID to a fraudster impersonating a legitimate email. If the request is an email, check the sender’s address, and you can always message or phone the customer service team (check your site for details) to make sure.
One good thing about verifying your age is that you might be able to access more content on the site. Many sites hide slots and promotions that could be seen as “appealing to children” until you have verified your age- Fluffy Favourites is a good example of a slot that many sites now hide in order to comply with the law. Once you’ve verified your age, you’ll be able to access everything they have to offer!
Identity Verification and KYC
Sites need to know that you are who you say you are. When you sign up, you enter your name, date of birth, and your address, so they need to check that that information is right. To do this, they’ll run a check called “Know Your Customer”, or KYC. This isn’t unique to gambling businesses; lots of companies do it. The good thing about this is that you shouldn’t have to do anything for it. The company will check your details match things like the electoral roll, to confirm that they’re true.
If something about your details doesn’t match up, it could be an honest mistake, or it could be a deliberate deception (like someone entering a false date of birth). In this case, the site will likely contact you to ask you to provide some evidence for the information you entered. Before you send any kind of personal information or photo of ID, make sure the request is genuine! Scam artists might try to contact people they know play on gambling sites and pretend to be the site requesting their details, so double check before sending anything.
Even if you pass the KYC check, you might still be asked to verify your identity, just to be sure. You can usually do this by sending a photo of your driving licence or passport. This is to check you’re not using someone else’s details; there may well be a Joe Bloggs who is 35 years old living at the address you entered, but that doesn’t mean you’re him!
This is a bit of a funny one. Not all sites will ask for your occupation, but we’re seeing it more and more lately. You can usually fill it in in your account page by choosing from a drop-down list, but why are sites asking for it?
This is effectively a softer form of Source of Funds checks (which we’ll come to next). Basically, the provider will check your spend against the expected earnings for someone in your job role. If you’re spending more than they’d expect for someone with your income, they’ll need to take further steps, and that’s where Source of Funds comes into play.
Sounds cheeky, right? You might be thinking, “What a liberty, telling me how much I should or shouldn’t be spending!”, and we’d totally get that. But think about it; if someone enters their occupation as a job where the average wage is £16,000 per year, and they’re spending £2,000 every single month on a bingo site, that site has every reason to question where that money is coming from.
The site has a legal obligation to check that players aren’t spending more than they can afford, and that they aren’t spending money that they’ve got through illegal activity. Checking players’ occupations against their spend is the first step in doing this.
What is Source of Funds?
Sometimes shortened to SOF, Source of Funds is a series of checks that sites have to carry out as part of their legal requirement to be socially responsible. It’s generally VIP players who find themselves facing Source of Funds requests, because they are used to check that players aren’t spending more than they can afford. The request for SOF usually triggers once you’ve deposited a certain amount.
To pass an SOF check, you’ll effectively have to prove that you can afford your current level of play. Of course, this will depend hugely on players’ personal circumstances; someone may not be in a very high-paying job, but they might have money from an inheritance or an insurance claim, for example, that they are using to play.
If this is the case, the player will have documents from the inheritance solicitors or insurance company that will prove that they have this money legitimately. If you have money saved up, you might be able to show bank statements to prove that you can afford your spend, or if you earn more than the provider predicted based on your occupation, you can show this with a payslip.
Why do sites ask for Source of Funds?
The question howled by many a player, shaking their fist at the sky, but there’s a good reason, we promise! The main reason sites will ask players to prove SOF is, quite simply, because they have to by law. More and more pressure is being put on gambling sites to ensure that they’re socially responsible, and SOF is a big part of that.
Conducting SOF checks allows sites to spot players who are spending more than they can afford, and slow them down or cut them off before the damage is irreversible. Some problem gamblers may not even be aware that they have a gambling addiction, or may be in denial. By keeping an eye on their spend, sites can help them, even if they are unable to help themselves just yet.
SOF is also in place to cut down on crime. Money laundering is a real problem for online and land-based casinos alike; this is when illegally-obtained money is passed through a system or business to “clean” it and make it look legit. By requiring players to show where they got their funds, this problem is significantly reduced. This also helps stop money that is the product of crime (like fraud, drug-dealing, or burglary) being used to gamble.
When a site asks you to prove your Source of Funds, it’s a safe bet that they don’t want to invade your privacy; they’re not trying to nose into your finances because they feel like it. The law requires them to carry out these checks, for the safety and benefit of all parties involved.
What will they do with my data?
It’s uncomfortable putting your financial and personal data in the hands of someone else, but any reputable gambling site will go out of their way to reassure you that your information is safe.
What happens if I can’t provide SOF?
This very much depends on what you can provide. If you can produce documents that show what you can afford, but this amount is less than what you are currently spending, the site may place caps or restrictions on your account to ensure that you don’t overspend.
If you can’t- or won’t- provide any information in response to the SOF request, it’s almost certain that your account will be closed. The sites aren’t doing this to be spiteful or to punish you; they have to by law. If you can’t or won’t provide this information, this gives them reason to believe that you perhaps can’t afford what you’re spending. As soon as they have reason to suspect this, they can’t let you keep playing- it wouldn’t be responsible.
You might (and fairly so) argue that it’s up to you how much you spend; it’s your money, and you can choose what you do with it. Unfortunately, not everyone who gambles is good at budgeting their money, and people struggling with gambling addiction are particularly at risk. The government and the Gambling Commission have decided that gambling providers need to take more responsibility for protecting these (and other) players, and that’s why SOF has been introduced.
Can’t I just play at a site that won’t ask for SOF?
It’s true, some gambling sites on the web won’t ever ask you for any verification, and they won’t ask for Source of Funds. However, this is a big red flag. Any site licensed to operate in the UK is regulated by the Gambling Commission, and the Gambling Commission requires those checks to be done. If the site you’re on doesn’t, chances are, it isn’t licensed to operate in the UK.
While some sites are licensed outside of the UK, some aren't licensed at all. If you choose to play at an unlicensed gambling site, you open yourself up to all kinds of risks. You have absolutely no guarantee that their games are fair, or that their slots aren’t rigged to make you lose. You have no comeback if they rip you off (they are not under UK jurisdiction), and you have no guarantee that your personal details (like your address and debit card number) are safe.
Still sound like a good idea? We thought not. SOF can be a pain, but the payoff is that you know you’re playing at a responsible site who isn’t taking advantage of vulnerable players and rinsing them for every penny instead of protecting them.
How do I submit my verification documents?
This will vary from site to site. Usually, you’ll be sent an email or message asking you to send the documents. This will likely tell you what you’ll need to send, and provide you the address to send it to. The site will usually ask you to send the documents in an email, where you can attach any photos, however some sites actually have a special page where you can upload your documents on the site.
If you’re not sure how your site wants you to send your documents, many sites will have a specific section in their FAQs about how to submit documents for verification. If not, contact customer service and ask them how you should send them. Many of OhMyBingo’s reviews include all the contact details, so check the review page for your site for phone numbers, email addresses, or to see if they have a live chat option.
As always, with any request for personal information, be absolutely sure that the request is genuine! If scam artists find out you are a member at a certain site, they may email you pretending to be that site in the hopes of getting your personal details or financial information. If the request was sent to you via email, check the sender’s email address, and contact customer support to confirm if you’re unsure. If you’re going to contact customer service, use the contact details from the actual site or from OhMyBingo’s review; don’t use contact details listed in the email itself. Stay safe out there!
Sites asking you to provide documents to verify your identity or finances may be annoying, but after all’s said and done, it’s a legal requirement that’s in place to protect you, the site, and vulnerable players. It’s a vital part of online gambling’s fight against crime, and in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t the end of the world.
For the minor inconvenience of SOF, you get the reassurance that your site is socially responsible, cares about their players’ financial security, and adheres to the Gambling Commission’s regulations. A site who asks for SOF is far more likely to be responsible, compliant, and safe, and if you really can afford your spend, SOF shouldn’t be a problem at all.
If you’re stuck or confused, you can always ask your site’s customer service team (or VIP manager, if you have one) for more information about Source of Funds, data protection, and privacy.