Sunday, November 23, 2014


News about a law enforcement operation in Mexico, where a team from the US Marshals Service, dressed as Mexican Marines (Infantería de Marina), and appropriately armed, engaged a group of wanted Mexican criminals, where two Americans were wounded, reminds me that you should always be aware of what are known as false flag operations. This is especially true when it comes to contact between your bank staff, and individuals who display credentials of a US law enforcement agency, to obtain information or cooperation, even on a informal basis.

False flag operations occur when an individual, group of individuals, agency or organization, deceptively hold themselves out as some other identity, to accomplish a particular purpose. it may be for a legitimate governmental purpose, to commit criminal acts, or to cause a third party to respond in a specific way, to meet the aims and goals of the individual using such tactics.

When visited by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, most bankers accept at face value the qualifications of the individuals who sit before them. We tend to accept authority, especially Federal authority, at face value, and generally strive to cooperate, as we believe that we are facilitating a law enforcement purpose; That is how American bankers conduct themselves.

But, for the sake of argument, what if that Special Agent in front of you is not what he represents himself to be ? Let's look at two of the possibilities:

(1) Fraudsters have been victimizing account holders for decades with this scam: posing as law enforcement, they contact a wealthy individual, who is one of your bank customers, and, claiming that they are seeking to expose specific criminal activity, ask the victim to transfer some of his or her money into an account that they control. What would you do if your client comes in with this story, or what if he or she names an individual that they believe to be a law enforcement agent, who is running the matter ? What of the "agent" actually comes into the bank, with your client ? Can you independently verify that the person is who they process to be ?

(2) Individuals from America's intelligence community, in a post-9/11 world, may pose as law enforcement, in order to gain information about a target of their agency. I personally have seen people that I know to be with the CIA, bearing FBI identification, at conferences. Always independently verify the credentials of any person purporting to be from a government agency, on official business; you may choose to have your investigator perform this task.

I am not telling you to decline to cooperate with bona fide law enforcement, just to verify that you really are speaking to a law enforcement officer, and not a fraudster seeking to fleece your client, or an intelligence agent wanting to pick your brain about a client, before you open up to them. Still confused ? Ask your bank counsel.

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