Security & Fraud

US Government Eyes Bank Transactions To Track ISIS Targets

The U.S. government has increased its efforts in tracking bank data to catch suspicious transactions or transfers that could lead to discovering targets of ISIS, or links to terrorist locations.

A Wall Street Journal report on the subject, citing Kurt Gredzinski, an official with the U.S. Special Operations Command, shows that efforts by the Treasury Department to handle those suspicious reports from banks could help identify where such terrorist groups are most prevalent, and where those groups would most likely pick as their next targets.

Because banks are already required by federal law to report any suspicious transactions, mainly in order to combat finance crimes, the government is now looking toward banks in ensuring they are reporting any sort of suspicious activity that could tip off officials to possible attacks.

Gredzinski noted that, despite the massive amounts of reports filed per year, they have been useful. Mainly for anti money-laundering efforts, of course, but now the attention has turned toward how money is being moved around between members of potential terrorist groups.

By tracking through IP addresses, Gredzinski explained that the U.S. government has the ability to link specific bank transfers information to individual computers. For example, after a shooting occurred in Tennessee this summer, the government was able to link where that shooter had purchased the gun based on the financial records.

Now, Gerald Roberts, the FBI’s chief of terrorist financial operations, says that banks need to be on alert for specific patterns that may be used by ISIS supporters. This could mean moving money into an account to buy plane tickets for travel, Roberts noted.

Tracking alleged ISIS supporters in the U.S. has already led to the Justice Department charging dozens, WSJ reported, most of whom have been caught through ties to those attempting to travel to Turkey to join related groups.

Where the banks have come into play, for example, is through suspicious banking behavior. Roberts pointed out the instance of an American customer opening up a bank account in Turkey and then being spotty on when they are actively using it. Roberts urged banks to report such behavior.

Some of the best information on Islamic State facilitation networks can come from banking officials, he said.

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