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Money laundering – What it looks like and how to protect yourself

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2022 | Federal Crimes

Money laundering is a serious offense, no matter how much money is in question. On a large scale, it’s most commonly used by criminal organizations and terrorists to clean (“launder”) dirty money, either acquired illegally or eventually used to fund illegal activities.

Laundering is also used for white collar crimes and small-scale illegal activity. At these dollar amounts, it’s possible you’ll make a rare transaction or two over your lifetime that will raise a money laundering red flag. Here’s what you need to know.

How much money qualifies as money laundering?

There’s no concrete threshold where suspicious money movement suddenly qualifies as money laundering. The law targets intent instead of a dollar range.

That said, activities that will raise money laundering flags include bringing more than $10,000 in cash into the U.S., depositing more than $10,000 in cash into a bank account and spending more than $300,000 in cash in a real estate transaction. While some of these activities aren’t necessarily illegal, they will trigger a review.

Large cash transactions are less common, therefore more suspicious

Digital payments are almost universal in this era. Credit cards, automatic payments and cash apps account for the majority of small and large transactions. So, having thousands of dollars in cash stashed in your house is increasingly considered fishy behavior, no matter how it was acquired.

Cash is also vulnerable to theft and destruction. Cash thefts are incredibly difficult to track as there’s virtually no trail to follow. And recovering cash lost in a fire or other mishap through insurance is virtually impossible, unless it’s been documented somehow. Unless your circumstances make it unavoidable, it’s always best to keep minimal cash in the house or at your business.

Use caution with cryptocurrency

If you’re dealing in relatively small amounts of cryptocurrency for payments or investments, you likely won’t run into any trouble. But, due to its relative newness and potential for abuse, large cryptocurrency transactions can attract attention. Keep exhaustive documentation if you’re involved with such transactions.

What to do if you’re flagged

Most money laundering flags are false positives. Unless the cash transaction in question can’t be readily explained, you’ll likely never get into trouble for large transactions.

If for whatever reason you’re flagged and the review doesn’t immediately exonerate you, you should contact an attorney.


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