FinCEN presses for faster sharing of suspicious transactions

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has established a hotline for financial institutions to expedite information about suspicious transactions that may be related to terrorist activity.

Banks and other financial services already file regular suspicious activity reports over a secure reporting system to the IRS Detroit Computing Center.

The hotline will bring possible terrorist-related financial activity to the attention of officials and law enforcement more rapidly, FinCEN said yesterday in its announcement.

'Even if not currently covered by the suspicious activity reporting requirements, institutions such as money services businesses, casinos and card clubs, and securities firms are encouraged to use the financial institutions hotline to report suspicious activity that may relate to recent terrorist activity and to file a SAR form,' FinCEN said.

In the war on terrorist financing, Treasury said it has disrupted and, in some cases, dismantled the financial infrastructure of some terrorist operations.

'Working in cooperation with the international community, we have frozen more than $140 million in terrorist-related assets, designated 383 individuals and entities as terrorist supporters, apprehended or disrupted key terrorist facilitators and deterred donors from supporting al Qaeda and other like-minded terrorist groups,' said Treasury secretary John Snow.

Earlier this week, Snow said Treasury was cooperating with the Homeland Security Department, federal and state financial regulators, international financial institutions and the financial sector to protect against possible terrorist threats to the financial infrastructure. Steps include:

  • improved communications systems and protocols between and among financial regulators and critical financial institutions

  • coordinated identification of potential vulnerabilities in the financial services sector and efforts to mitigate these vulnerabilities

  • security seminars to financial business leaders in major cities

  • guidance on business continuity planning

  • drills and exercises to test backup systems and prepare financial professionals.

Meanwhile, scammers are using fraudulent letters from FinCEN to banking customers to bilk them out of money. FinCEN has received copies of these anti-terrorist stop order letters, which notify consumers that fees of about $25,000 are required for issuance of an anti-terrorist certificate before transactions can continue. FinCEN urged recipients of such letters to alert their local law enforcement.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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