FinCEN Sees Jump in Crypto-Related Suspicious Activity Reports

Crypto companies have filed 7,100 Suspicious Activity Reports since May, America’s anti-money-laundering chief said at a banking conference Tuesday.

AccessTimeIconDec 10, 2019 at 11:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:47 a.m. UTC
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Crypto companies have filed 7,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) since May, America’s anti-money-laundering (AML) chief said at a banking conference Tuesday.

The reports, according to Kenneth Blanco, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), follow FinCEN’s May guidance explaining how the Banking Secrecy Act, the cornerstone of U.S. AML law, applies to the virtual currency space. 

Since then, Blanco said that in total 11,000 crypto-related SARs have been filed with FinCEN. Twenty-one hundred filers directly referenced the guidance and “dozens” of new entities filed their first report.

The high numbers indicate that virtual asset service providers (VASP) like crypto ATMs and exchanges are keeping a closer eye on potentially illicit activity moving across their network. 

“It is encouraging that CVC entities, dozens of whom had never filed a SAR report prior to the May advisory, are using the red flags and reporting suspicious activity back to us,” said Blanco.

Venezuela in particular appears to be a hotbed of suspicious crypto activity, Blanco said. The Latin American country with its allegedly oil-backed token, the Petro, seems to have spawned an increasing number of unregistered money services business. 

Domestically, crypto companies are reporting more darknet-linked customer transactions, more scams, and more activities targeting the elderly, whose “limited knowledge” of cryptocurrency places them at higher risk.

Blanco said that all financial institutions need to consider their crypto SAR reporting, even those who do not currently report any activity. 

“If the answer is no, they need to reevaluate whether their institutions are exposed to cryptocurrency,” he said.

The remarks come as crypto exchanges, analyst firms, and others bolster their efforts to expand suspicious activity reporting. 

Last week, a Forbes story revealed the existence of the confidential “Indicators of Suspicion for Virtual Asset Service Providers” report, essentially a playbook for sniffing out suspicious activity assembled by the stakeholders themselves.


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