Right now, feds might be looking into your finances

Banks tip off government to possible money laundering, fraud

WASHINGTON – Each year, federal agents peek at the financial transactions of millions of Americans – without their knowledge.

The same type of information that raised suspicions about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is reviewed every day by authorities to find traces of money laundering, check fraud, identity theft or any crime that may involve a financial institution.

As concerns about fraud and terrorist financing grow, an increasing number of suspicious deposits, withdrawals and money transfers are being reported by banks and others to the federal government. Banks and credit unions as well as currency dealers and stores that cash checks reported a record 17.6 million transactions to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in 2006, according to a report from the network, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department.

“I don’t think Americans understand that their financial transactions are being reported and routinely examined,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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