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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FinCEN advisory warns of Covid-19 medical scams, provides guidance on reporting suspicious activity

Federal Issues FinCEN Covid-19 Financial Crimes Bank Secrecy Act SARs Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Federal Issues

On May 18, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory and companion notice on medical scams related to the Covid-19 pandemic that provide detailed instructions for financial institutions filing reports of Covid-19-related suspicious activities. The advisory outlines numerous red flag indicators and case studies addressing Covid-19 medical-related fraudulent activity to assist financial institutions in detecting, preventing, and reporting suspicious transactions. FinCEN also encourages financial institutions to consider additional contextual information, such as a customer’s historical financial activity and whether a customer exhibits multiple indicators, before making a determination that a transaction is suspicious. FinCEN further advises financial institutions—when taking a risk-based approach to Bank Secrecy Act compliance—to perform additional inquiries and conduct investigations as necessary.

The companion notice provides, among other things, that suspicious activity reports (SAR) should only include Covid-19 statements tied to suspicious activity and that statements related to Covid-19’s impact on SAR filing abilities should not be included. However, FinCEN states that filers who previously included these references are not required to file corrected reports. For fraud schemes, including those that exploit the Covid-19 pandemic, FinCEN reiterates that full details related to SAR filings and supporting documentation should be submitted as quickly as possible. The notice also addresses information sharing among financial institutions and provides contact information for reporting Covid-19-related criminal activity to other agencies.

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