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Financial Crime

Financial Crime

The driving purpose for the majority of crimes is money — criminals conduct their illegal acts to profit.

Criminals steal from the public and businesses every day — often to enrich themselves and use the money to commit more crimes. They also take advantage of legitimate financial systems to launder and hide illegal funds and move the money into and out of the United States.

Although financial crimes aren’t violent, they aren’t victimless. They pose serious threats to people, businesses, and the U.S. economy, and HSI is committed to combating them. We use our expertise and partnerships to stop these criminals and prevent the devastating financial impact they can have on you, your bank account and your business.

Understanding Financial Crimes

Most criminals commit crimes to make money. Then, they have to hide or legitimize those funds.

Criminals exploit you and our financial systems for profit. The main types of financial crimes HSI investigates include the following:

  • Money laundering. Money laundering occurs when one or more criminals conceal the origin of illegally obtained money. This often involves transfers between banks and legitimate businesses.
  • Fraud. Financial fraud involves one or more criminals deceiving other people for financial gain.
  • Trade violations. Trade violations occur when people evade customs laws and reporting requirements, dodge financial obligations and manipulate trade to illicitly benefit.
  • Cyber-enabled financial crimes. These crimes, which include identity theft and complex online scams, occur when criminals use technology to commit them.

Crypto and AI: Evolving Financial Crime Threats

Criminals and criminal organizations constantly evolve to take advantage of new methods and technologies to maximize profit and launder their proceeds.

While cash is still king, criminals increasingly use cryptocurrency for the following reasons:

  • Cryptocurrency platforms allow anonymous transactions and let users access funds quickly.
  • Crypto platforms operate outside traditional banking structures, which are required to report suspicious financial activity and potential money laundering to the government.
  • Criminals use these systems to open “wallets” that can receive and make payments, cash out balances, and move their illicit financial proceeds across international boundaries.

Criminals also use artificial intelligence to conduct financial crimes because AI allows criminals to mimic voices or email writing styles to convince a victim that they are communicating with someone that they “know.” The criminals then request financial assistance or steal information to access the victim’s financial accounts.

The Impact of Financial Crimes

The consequences of financial crimes are far-reaching and include:

  • Economic damage. Financial crimes undermine faith in financial institutions, distort markets and harm the economy by introducing inefficiencies and unfair advantages.
  • Social harm. Financial crimes erode trust within communities and can devastate the people and businesses who fall victim to fraud and scams.
  • Funding of further crimes. Proceeds from financial crimes often fuel other illegal activities, creating a cycle of crime that poses a continuous threat to our safety and security.

HSI's Response to Financial Crimes

HSI identifies and investigates financial crimes and dismantles the complex criminal networks that often fuel and facilitate them. Our expertise in financial investigations dates back to our origins as special agents with the U.S. Customs Service, which — until the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 — was part of the Department of the Treasury. We use our experience and authorities to do the following:

  • Investigate and arrest violators. HSI gathers evidence at home and abroad to build criminal cases against those engaged in financial crimes.
  • Seize illicit proceeds. HSI traces and seizes assets derived from criminal activities, disrupting criminal enterprises and taking away their profits.
  • Engage in public-private partnerships. HSI collaborates with financial institutions, regulatory bodies and international partners to strengthen the global response to financial crimes.
  • Educate and empower. HSI shares knowledge and indicators of financial crime with the public and private sectors. This helps prevent exploitation and prepares individuals and businesses to defend against these threats.

How We Can Help Each Other

Awareness and vigilance are key components in the fight against financial crimes. Here's how you can contribute:

  • Stay informed. Understanding the signs of financial scams and the methods criminals use can help protect you, your business and your community.
  • Report suspicious activities. If you encounter or suspect financial crime, reporting incidents to us can prevent further harm.
  • Follow the law. When we all comply with U.S. financial and customs reporting requirements, we help build a culture resistant to criminal exploitation.

HSI is committed to following the money, using our expertise to track, trace and seize illicit funds, and to pursue the individuals and networks engaged in financial crimes. We identify trends and vulnerabilities and share our findings with the public and our partners. By working together, we can safeguard our financial systems and communities from the damaging effects financial crimes have on our lives, our bank accounts, our businesses and our future.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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