Beyond The Suspicious Activity Report: Is Your Bank Calling The Cops When You Withdraw Money? (Hint: No)

The Free Thought Project Didn’t Think This Through

You find the most terrifying things on social media. Especially when it comes to banking and government. Now, many Americans debate the role of government in our private lives, including our financial lives. Some people want more government intervention to help us make the right financial decisions and regulations to keep the banks from acting out of line, while others would rather leave everything to the market and place a higher value on personal responsibility. I’m not going to get into that debate. But I think we can all agree that a bank calling the cops on everyone who withdraws money from their account is going a bit too far.

Jay Syrmopoulos of the Free Thought Project agrees. And in a recently published article on their website, he tells about how the government has just ordered banks to call the cops on any customer who withdraws $5,000 or more from their own account!

Beyond The Suspicious Activity Report
Even the Liberty Bell is shocked by how little liberty is ringing from this move. [Photo courtesy of “Samantha at the World’s Fair”]
The police state is out of control! Is this not a democracy anymore!? As Mr. Syrmopoulos pointed out, things are already bad enough as it is, what with banks already being required to fill out Suspicious Activity Reports for anyone who withdraws $5,000 from their account.

Wait, what?

Yeah, apparently your bank teller is–or rather was–required to fill out a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) every time a customer withdrew $5,000 or more from the bank. But now, according to this article, the tellers will actually be required to call the cops directly whenever somebody takes out that amount of cash. And when you couple that with the SAR quotas that banks have to keep each month, all I can say is that this is not right! This is insane! This is fascist!

This is………completely new information to me. Also, this may not be entirely true.

One Of Us Is Grossly Misinformed

I’ve worked in multiple banks. I spent many years as a teller and even still help out behind the window every now and then. And in all my years of banking, I’ve never seen a teller fill out a SAR for a transaction over $5,000. Unless we were supposed to be doing that, in which case we’ve all totally been doing that every single time and any government officials and bank compliance officers who may be reading this can move along. We got this.

Beyond The Suspicious Activity Report
Nothing to see here, Agent Harry. [Photo courtesy of cakechooser.com
But really, we are not doing that. We don’t do that. Unless that’s what the manager is doing, sequestered in his/her office all the time while always on the phone. Somehow I doubt that, as the constant out-of-branch meetings might make that part of the job a bit tougher to stay on top of.

But Mr. Syrmopoulos even linked to the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council’s website where they talk about the requirements for filling out SARs! Surely there is the proof right there that the banks are secretly government spies! Well, two can play the linking game. Actually reading the content is another story. I read it. And you’ll notice that even though he even quotes the requirement, he leaves off the end of the sentence. Well, he leaves off a lot more than a sentence.

A Suspicious Activity Report is required for cash transactions of $5,000 or more if the bank knows or has reasons to suspect money-laundering, criminal or terrorist financing, evasion of Bank Secrecy Act reporting requirements (meaning you are trying to engage in tax evasion, money laundering, or terrorist financing), or if the transaction has “no business or apparent lawful purpose or is not the type of transaction that the particular customer would normally be expected to engage in, and the bank knows of no reasonable explanation for the transaction after examining the available facts, including the background and possible purpose of the transaction”.

That last part is what he should have quoted if he wanted to make any sort of credible point, but even then it’s not what he thinks. He is trying to sell the horror story the government sending police officers to arrest you for withdrawing cash to buy a used car from a private seller or to give emergency funds to a loved one (as he quotes Mac Slavo’s article on what appears to be one of those survivalist websites telling you where to store your gold bars and canned food in case the FBI/CIA/New World Order comes busting down your door looking for your green beans). But in practice, tellers don’t probe their customers’ personal lives to find out why they are withdrawing that money (even when the amount exceeds $10,000 and a Currency Transaction Report is required, the purpose of the transaction is never taken). Perhaps if a person with no job or a low paying one is constantly depositing huge checks from people’s personal accounts and constantly withdraws thousands of dollars in cash from a personal account while possessing neither a home nor a business, that might pop up on a particularly keen bank teller’s radar. That’s if the tellers are paying that much attention to a single person’s banking habits while dealing with the long lines, keeping their cash drawers in balance, and trying to make their referral sales quotas. If you truly think that is the case, then you may be confusing a part time twenty year old teller who is just there to make money to buy textbooks for a professionally trained career law enforcement official. I would say that the latter is more dedicated to this sort of thing than the former.

An employee of a money changer counts U.S. dollar notes for a customer at a bank in Cairo
“Frankly I’m surprised I even showed up this morning”. [Photo courtesy of mises.ca]
Also, about that order from the government for banks to call the cops directly on someone. Once again, the author linked to the source without actually reading what he was linking to. So let me point out a few things about it. First, the government (specifically the Justice Department) “encourages” the banks to call the police, not “requires” them. Second, this is in a situation where the banks can see that suspicious or criminal activity is going on (for example, don’t be surprised if the bank calls the police on you for presenting a stolen check or a fake ID). Nowhere are cash withdrawals over $5,000 even mentioned in this supposed order. And third, this isn’t a law passed by Congress, an Executive Order by the President, a court order by a judge, or an order from a regulatory body. It’s the opening statements at the ACAMS Anti-Money Laundering & Financial Crime Conference held just recently. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell simply spoke at the conference, and the linked source is simple a transcript of her speech. And while her words carry weight and influence, to conflate the opening statements of a conference with a direct order to all financial institutions is a bit dishonest.

Laws don’t get created from conference speeches. That’s not how things work.

Mr. Syrmopoulos tries to connect the dots emotionally. “So potentially you can receive a visit from the police, be put on a terror watch list, and/or have your assets seized for doing nothing other than simply withdrawing your hard earned cash from the bank. Let that sink in for a moment. All of that for trying to withdraw your own money from a bank!” he writes.

Listen, if the government is going to put people in jail just for withdrawing money from their bank, I’m going to bet that they don’t need the banks’ cooperation for this. Remember a couple years ago when the US was caught spying on major allies such as France and Germany? Do you think the US Government needed someone to fill out a Suspicious Activity Report for that to happen? If they can spy on foreign leaders without outside help or knowledge, they can do the same to you. They don’t need your bank teller’s help. Plus, if the SARs are being filled out–and calls to the police are being made–by teenage or young twenty-something year old tellers with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, don’t you think we’d all know about this by now? Burglars tweet about their crimes while hiding from the police; this is the society we live in now! I have a feeling that if someone was arrested for making a withdrawal from their own account, the teller him/herself would probably have been the one to post the video online in the first place.

Beyond The Suspicious Activity Report
“Cops Beat Down Man For Withdrawing Money From Bank”!? LMAO!!!!!! Retweeting this! [Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net]

What Is A Suspicious Activity Report And When Is It Filed?

A Suspicious Activity Report is filed whenever you withdraw more than $5,000 in cash. The cops come and beat you senseless while the bank manager takes the cash back and uses it for strippers and drugs.

Just kidding. A Suspicious Activity Report is exactly what the name implies. If a bank employee suspects illegal activity in regards to a transaction, a SAR is sent to FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). What triggers a SAR? What counts as “possible illegal activity”? There is no set list, but any transaction that doesn’t make business sense and does not fall into the customer’s usual financial patterns can lead to a SAR being documented. Now I know that sounds vague enough to send the right wing conspiracy theorists stocking up on rifles in case the men in black decide to investigate their most recent deposit of birthday checks, but in reality that means situations like a person with no job suddenly depositing large amounts of cash on a regular basis or a person with no bank account constantly cashing large checks drawn on that institution. These are indicators of illicit activity. And it’s not even a guarantee that these transactions will result in a SAR. The tellers do not take it upon themselves to do them, and likely the manager will instead either have the teller refuse the transaction in question, put a note on the account in regards to possible suspicious activity, have the account closed, or any combination of the three. I know that if you walk into my branch with a couple thousand dollars in singles and try to deposit it into your personal account, my manager will send you right back out the door with every last dollar bill still in your pocket.

I don’t know where this Free Thought Project “journalist” got the idea that a transaction above $5,000 automatically triggers a SAR. Perhaps he read part of the Wikipedia entry that explains that ?transactions aggregating $5,000 or more that involve potential money laundering or violations of the Bank Secrecy Act? are required to have a SAR filled out. I can promise you that withdrawing emergency cash for a loved one will not trigger a SAR.

And anyone that does think that probably thinks that the government can read his thoughts.

So Why The Fear Mongering From The Free Thought Project?

Listen, it’s good to stay vigilant against the overreach of the nanny state and the collusion between Big Business and Big Government. While I won’t get into my personal politics here, those who know me in real life know that I’m not exactly the type to trumpet the government’s cause. But anti-government misinformation does good to no one, and in this case it’s bringing the “fight” straight to bank tellers who have nothing to do with the government’s never ending crusade to monitor and control every facet of your life.

Jay Syrmopoulos’s article on the Free Thought Project doesn’t do anything to promote limited government, privacy, or individual liberty. It doesn’t do anything to fight against overreach by governments or banks. It is just fear mongering and spreading misinformation. But why?

While I hate to assign a motive to any one person’s writing (especially if the writing is sincere and just misinformed, since I’m sure someone can point out at least one glaring error in something I’ve written), I would say that a lot of these “survivalist” websites, such as the aforementioned site “Mac Slavo” wrote an article for, are doing exactly what the US Government did after 9/11 with the Iraq War: fear-selling.

Beyond The Suspicious Activity Report
“And I’ll let you have all these essential guns and gold coins for just some worthless US Dollars!” [Photo courtesy of youtube.com]
Remember how if we didn’t invade Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein would kill us all with his vast quantities of Weapons of Mass Destruction? Remember 2008, when if we didn’t bail out all the big banks, the economy and America as we knew it would collapse? Well, look at these survivalist websites. There are articles about cops tasing children for fun and imminent economic collapse and FEMA death camps on the way, so on and for forth. “So where’s YOUR gun? Where’s YOUR survival property? Where’s YOUR gold supply? Oh you don’t have any of that? Well, you’d better buy as much as you can from us….before society collapses!”. It’s not about whether or not their ideology is correct; opposing fiat currency and government overreach and owning gold and a gun doesn’t make one stupid, crazy, or dangerous. Or even wrong. But these survivalist websites sell you on both the fear and the power fantasy. The fear of not being prepared in case society collapses into a festering cesspool of liberal gun control, Orwellian telescreens, and dark-skin-initiated looting and rioting. The power fantasy of being the only one around that has the guns, food, water, and fortifications to survive an economic collapse and the gold to trade for more. The power fantasy is especially scary if you look at the comments. People who think that the stock market is rigged consider .22 caliber ammunition to be a good long term investment and are actually excited about the idea of societal collapse (I saw one commenter excitedly talking about how he would allow survivors on his land to work his crops and only give them enough food and water to survive one more day as long as they were still physically capable of working. I’d like to think this future slave master born in the wrong century was joking, but I’m not that optimistic). But either way, the site sells you on the fear and the power fantasy, and then sells you all the products you need to soothe those fears and fulfill that power fantasy.

Like I said before, if the government really wanted to arrest you for withdrawing your money from the bank, they do not need a Suspicious Activity Report to do so. They have the technological means to track what you do and if they wanted to look at a bank’s records to see your transaction history, they could do so without the bank’s cooperation. If you want to pretend that it’s time to hunker down in your bunker, eating nothing but canned vegetables and carrying around your assault rifle in case the dollar collapses or someone tries to convert you to homosexuality, that’s fine. But leave the tellers out of it. Because, survivalists, one day someone in your community will take the fear mongering and power fantasies that sites like SHTF thrive on way too far. And a quick glance at your community tells me that that’s more likely than the imminent collapse of society you all seem to be pulling for.

And to all of the writers for organizations like the Free Thought Project that seek to keep citizens informed of their rights and provide checks against the state, make sure you are sharing actual information, not misinformation and flat out lies that are being spread by those that profit from fear mongering.

Readers–What do YOU think? Is the story fed to us by the Free Thought Project going to become our reality, or are these survivalists full of themselves and a SAR is just a SAR? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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