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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FinCEN outlines human trafficking red flags for financial institutions

Financial Crimes FinCEN Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Financial Crimes

On October 15, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued Advisory FIN-2020-A008 outlining new financial and behavioral indicators, as well as updated typologies, to help financial institutions identify human trafficking. The advisory highlights four specific typologies human traffickers may use to evade detection and launder illicit proceeds: (i) front companies that may appear to have legitimate registrations and licenses; (ii) exploitative employment practices; (iii) funnel accounts used to transfer funds between geographic areas, often in amounts below the cash reporting threshold; and (iv) alternative payment methods, including payments by “credit cards, prepaid cards, mobile payment applications, and convertible virtual currency.” The advisory includes examples for financial institutions to monitor, such as multiple employees receiving salaries in the same account, or payments that are immediately withdrawn or transferred into another account. FinCEN also notes that human traffickers use third-party payment processors to wire funds in order to conceal the true originator or beneficiary. While the advisory includes a specific list of red flag indicators, FinCEN warns financial institutions to consider additional behaviors, both behavioral indicators and financial indicators when determining whether a transaction may be associated with human trafficking. Financial institutions reporting human trafficking in a suspicious activity report should reference the advisory in the appropriate fields to indicate a connection between the activities involved in the SAR and those described in the advisory.