Nanny State

Don't Leave Home


You're on vacation overseas. You reach to settle the dinner check, and then you realize: Your wallet's gone. Your credit cards are missing. You've been robbed. What will you do? While you wait for replacement traveler's checks and credit cards, you ask Aunt Sally back home to wire you some money. No problem–as long as she first checks with your Uncle Sam.

As the drug war moves into the Information Age, the Clinton administration has proposed new regulations for wiring money overseas. Called "another nail in the coffin of financial privacy" by Financial Privacy Report Publisher Mike Ketcher, the new rules would force anyone sending more than $750 abroad to provide identification to the financial institution wiring the money and have the transaction reported to the Treasury Department.

Current regulations require that all cash transfers of more than $3,000 be recorded by the wiring service and that all wires over $10,000 be reported to the government. The Treasury Department reports an increase in the number of transfers below the current reporting thresholds from the United States to Colombia, attributing it to drug dealers sending money to their higher-ups in South America.

Yet law-abiding people who wire money in amounts below the reporting threshold may be under the watchful eyes of law enforcement. In Texas, where businesses must report financial transactions of more than $1,000, the Federal Register notes that "surveillance" has been used to track the difference between the "number of people observed patronizing" a money-transfer business and "the number of customers reflected in business records." Treasury predicts that merely filling out additional paperwork will cost those who wire money overseas an extra $2.4 million. The department is expected to hand down the new Bank Secrecy Act regulations by the end of the summer.