Suspicious Activity Report/Suspicious Transaction Report (SAR/STR)

A Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is a document that financial institutions — and those associated with their business — must file with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) whenever there is a suspected case of money laundering or fraud. These reports are meant to help monitor suspicious activity within finance-related industries that is deemed out of the ordinary, a precursor of illegal activity, or might threaten public safety. Since 2012, all SAR filings are required to go through FinCEN's BSA e-filing system.

In the form, financial institutions report who is conducting the suspicious activity, what instruments/mechanisms they’re using, when and where the suspicious activity took place, and why they think the activity is suspicious.

Frequently asked questions

What triggers a suspicious activity report?

Financial institutions should file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) whenever they notice any activity that’s out of the ordinary — for example, if an individual does something that makes it look like they’re trying to hide something or make an illegal transaction. Institutions don’t necessarily need proof a crime has occurred to file a report.

When must a SAR report be filed?

Financial institutions must file a SAR within 30 days of noticing any activity that may indicate money laundering or fraud. If needed, financial institutions can get an extension of up to 60 more days to collect more evidence.

What happens when a SAR is filed?

Once a financial institution files a SAR, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) will investigate the incident.

What constitutes suspicious activity?

In the context of Suspicious Activity Reports, “suspicious activity” includes any activity that’s out of the ordinary. For example, financial institutions should file a report if they suspect someone of engaging in insider trading activity or notice someone operating an unlicensed money services business (MSB). Other examples include bulk cash transactions, a ton of activity in a short period of time, and large numbers of wire transfers.

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