Just Like That, Your Bank Account is No More

Banks file SARs with the government on private bank accounts, but the account holders aren’t notified until it’s too late.

November 13, 2023

By: Bobby Casey

bank account We’ve addressed a lot of civil asset forfeiture over the years. It’s what became popularly known as “policing for profit”. It should’ve been called road piracy, if we’re being honest.

A private citizen, who was never charged much less convicted of any crimes, would lose their assets — such as a house, car, or contents of their bank or safe deposit accounts — because that property was “guilty” of being a party to a crime.

While a person is innocent until proven guilty, property is guilty until proven innocent. The amount of money it takes to dispute asset forfeiture often is more than the value of what was taken, so people just concede the loss. And the local police would get a “share” of the bounty.

This, OF COURSE, was done to protect the good citizens of the US from those big bad drug dealers. You understand… greater good, and all that…

Some states started cracking down on it, with only three states (New Mexico, Nebraska, and North Carolina) actually banning it; but that hasn’t stopped the federal side at all. The federal government can just as easily deputize state agents and still seize assets.

A lot of innocent people were, and still are, swept up in that dragnet. Small business owners who deal in cash and people who want to buy things from local listings in cash lost thousands of dollars each. The U.S. federal government stole more from people than all the private sector thieves.

Institute for Justice has been relentless in trying to bring awareness to this activity. FOX featured a recent article estimating how much revenue the federal government has generated using asset forfeiture alone:

Forfeiture generated more than $45.7 billion in revenue for the federal government alone between 2000 and 2019, according to IJ. Proceeds are often split between federal and local police agencies.

The alarming part is, it hasn’t slowed down. In fact, in that same article, they expose another $6 BILLION:

The DOJ announced earlier this year more than $6 billion in contracts awarded to multiple private companies to help with asset forfeiture investigations. Contractors are expected to help with everything from investigating and identifying assets for seizure to record keeping and providing courtroom testimony, according to DOJ records.

So far, some major overt “depersoning or cancelling” programs the government can perform include:

There’s Eminent Domain where government can take your land offering “fair market value”.

There’s Asset Forfeiture where government can take anything and everything because they think it was party to a crime.

There was the whole collusion with large Social Media platforms to silence people for questioning “The Science” or mentioning Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Certainly, there are instances of asset forfeiture that are extemporaneous. No one intended to steal that day, but it just so happened a man with a few thousand dollars ran a red light so, we’ll assume he’s a drug dealer and help ourselves.

But a good amount results from Suspicious Activity Reports issued by the banks:

By law, banks must file a “suspicious activity report” when they see transactions or behavior that might violate the law, like unexpectedly large cash transactions or wire transfers with banks in high-risk countries. According to Thomson Reuters, banks filed over 1.8 million SARs in 2022, a 50 percent increase in just two years. This year, the figure is on track to hit nearly two million.

Here’s the kicker: banks are not allowed to tell the account holders if and when a SAR is filed with the government on their account.

What triggers these flags on the account?

Last year, banks filing SARs tagged categories like suspicious checks, concern over the source of the funds and “transaction with no apparent economic, business or lawful purpose” most often, according to Thomson Reuters.

The issue is determinations of suspicion or worse shutting down the account are made with metadata. There’s zero context to the activity, so it’s observed and judged in a vacuum.

Many small businesses run on cash. Small bodegas, contractors who don’t want to pay the 4% transaction fees on credit cards, bars and eateries that often receive their payments in cash, farmers’ markets, and of course most things sold peer-to-peer are in cash.

Cash deposits, cash withdrawals, and international wires all incur red flags. Get enough of those demerits and you’re out. But because the banks can’t tell the account holders what they did wrong, they don’t find out until it’s too late.

The targeting of cash transactions in particular is interesting. If you do anything over $10,000 paperwork needs to be filed. Anything under that it doesn’t. But anything close to but under that gets an SAR because it could be someone “structuring” to avoid the paperwork and government visibility.

OR, you’re just a contractor who only pulls in $9k per deposit? Or you’re paying a contractor in cash to avoid credit card fees? Again, no context. No actual criminality. It smacks of the Social Media platform consequences where it’s a private company carrying out the government’s bidding on their customers… while also carrying the asset forfeiture consequences of not leveling formal charges against a person but still punishing their assets in some way.

It’s almost like they are discouraging people from using cash and prefer the digital transactions that are more trackable.

The banks provide no insight into why your account gets shut down, but it happens suddenly and without notice. IF you get your money back, it will take several weeks. They are allowed to do this and it’s in the fine print of the agreement. Be very careful who you bank with, and how you bank with them. It is advisable to have multiple accounts with different banks in different jurisdictions, as a safety precaution.

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