In remarks delivered yesterday during a virtual AML conference, FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco encouraged attendees to read FinCEN's advisories related to COVID-10 medical fraud, imposter scams, and cyber-related crime. He said that the most common trend FinCEN is seeing in COVID-19 related SARs involves fraudsters targeting multiple COVID-19 related government stimulus programs, employing money mules and cyber techniques. The largest share of COVID-19 SARs addresses fraud against federal or state COVID-19 stimulus programs. Stimulus programs intended to benefit both individual taxpayers and small businesses have been targeted for fraud, with multiple Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) payments disbursed to a single account representing the most common financial pattern reported in SARs.
Blanco recommended that SARs be specific in describing the activity being reported, to make them as useful as possible for law enforcement. Detailed information can help get SARs routed to the correct investigative team. For example, reports of medical scams like fake test kits, non-delivery of goods, and price gouging go to a specialized team of attorneys and investigators across the government. Specificity in the SAR about the fraudulent or suspicious medical aspects, both in the narrative and by checking box 34z, will get a SAR to this team more quickly.
For consumer related fraud, especially targeting the elderly or other vulnerable individuals with a COVID-19 related scam, such as a fake COVID relief charity or bogus person-in-need scam, specificity in SARs is also encouraged. Using the SAR check box 38d for elder financial exploitation will expedite getting the SAR to the right team.
Regarding SARs reporting suspected fraud in government programs, Blanco said vague references to “stimulus” or “CARES Act” or “benefit” in SARs hinder FinCEN's ability to get the information into the hands of the right team. The more specific filers are in their SAR narratives, the faster their reports will get to the right investigators. For example:
- If the suspicious activity is related to an ACH payment from a state unemployment insurance program, filers should clearly mention COVID19 UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD in field 2 of the SAR (Filing Institution Note to FinCEN) as well as in the narrative. This will make it much easier for the SAR to get to law enforcement teams working with the states on unemployment fraud.
- If the activity involves a counterfeit check or ACH payment for the EIDL program, filers should clearly mention COVID19 EIDL FUNDS FRAUD in field 2 of the SAR and state this in the narrative, because there are specific prosecutorial teams working on EIDL fraud.
Blanco said that, from February 1 to September 12, banks and credit unions filed over 64,000, or about 71 percent, of all COVID-19-related SARs.