I’ve written about whether buying money orders could get you convicted of money laundering before. Recent events have suggested it’s time for a reminder post. If you’re buying money orders, you may want to read my post on everything you need to know structuring.
As a reminder:
- I am not a lawyer
- I am not a CPA
- I do not work for the federal government
- I do not work for a bank
With that in mind, this is merely from me. Someone who likes rules. Who prefers black and white. And is uncomfortable in the gray area.
You can play big when you play within the rules. Especially if you need structure. (Ironic, I know. But I had to get that pun in there.)
- Structuring (Smurfing)
- Money Orders
- Bank Deposits
- Things to Keep in Mind
- Buying Money Orders: You Might be Structuring if…
- 1. You Buy Money Orders at Multiple Places
- 2. Your Friends Help You Buy Money Orders
- 3. Your Friends or Family Deposit Money Orders for You
- 4. You Buy Money Orders on Multiple Days
- 5. You Have Several Bank Accounts To Deposit Your Money Orders
- 6. You Deposit Less Than $10,000 Into Your Account
- 7. You Deposit Less Than $10,000 Into Multiple Banks
Structuring or smurfing (not to be confused with the little blue guys and one gal) is when you manipulate your financial transactions so that they are under the reportable amounts.
You can read the lengthy IRS definition of structuring.
This means buying money orders for less $3,000. Not a single money order for less than $3,000. But a total of $3,000 in money orders at one place.
However, some places like big box stores that favor the color blue, the post office, drug stores, and/or grocery stores may have lower reporting limits when buying money orders.
So you might be asked to fill out paperwork if you’re buying $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 worth of money orders at a time.
Even if the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) has a $3,000 a day limit.
If you are depositing $10,000 or more at one time at the same bank, the bank is required to complete a Currency Transaction Report (CTR).
And if they suspect you of making deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid the reporting, a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is filed with the US Treasury Department. This is what happened to Eliot Spitzer.
Things to Keep in Mind
1. A Long Process
It takes the federal government a long time to build a case against you.
So just because no one has come to your house, started to ask questions, or shut you down, does NOT mean that you are safe.
Nor does it mean that your behavior and patterns aren’t being observed.
2. Frozen Assets
3. You’re Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Because this structuring is a civil crime, you have to prove your innocence. If convicted you can be fined and/or sentenced to 5 years in jail.
Buying Money Orders: You Might be Structuring if…
Now that you understand the implications, let’s go into a few examples of what could be construed as structuring.
1. You Buy Money Orders at Multiple Places
If you’re buying money orders under reportable limits at multiple places on the same day you might be structuring.
This means driving around town and visiting multiple stores that sell money orders.
And buying under the limit that requires reporting.
2. Your Friends Help You Buy Money Orders
If you enlist the help of friends and family to buy money orders for you if you could be structuring.
This is also called smurfing.
3. Your Friends or Family Deposit Money Orders for You
You might be structuring (or smurfing) if you ask friends and family to deposit money orders for you.
4. You Buy Money Orders on Multiple Days
Buying money orders on multiple days to avoid being reported could also be considered structuring.
5. You Have Several Bank Accounts To Deposit Your Money Orders
If you have several bank accounts where you deposit your money orders you might be structuring.
Even if you only use these accounts to hold the funds temporarily and then pay off your credit card.
6. You Deposit Less Than $10,000 Into Your Account
You could be structuring if you make deposits of less than $10,000 into your bank account.
Especially if you spread out these amounts over several days.
7. You Deposit Less Than $10,000 Into Multiple Banks
If you make multiple bank deposits at different banks, all under the $10,000 limit, you might be structuring.
If you’re new to buying money orders, read my post on whether buying money orders could get you convicted of money laundering.
So long story short, if you’re going to keep buying money orders, do NOT play games. If you have to fill out paperwork, fill out paperwork.
Deposit more than $10,000. Don’t break up your deposits and go to various banks.
Play by the rules and stay out of jail.
What are your thoughts? Does your behavior give you any pause? Could you be structuring and not know it?
Comment, tweet, or share this post.
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