Guidelines for filing a Suspicious Activity Report

What are the guidelines for filing Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs?

Banks, bank holding companies and their subsidiaries are required by federal regulations to file a SAR with respect to:


A transaction includes a deposit; a withdrawal; a transfer between accounts; an exchange of currency; an extension of credit; a purchase or sale of any stock, bond, certificate of deposit or other monetary instrument or investment security; or any other payment, transfer or delivery by, through or to a bank.

A SAR must be filed no later than 30 calendar days from the date of the initial detection of the suspicious activity, unless no suspect can be identified. In that case, the time period for filing a SAR is extended to 60 days.

No bank, and no director, officer, employee or agent of a bank that reports a suspicious transaction, may notify any person involved in the transaction that the transaction has been reported.

Banks must retain copies of SARs and supporting documentation for five years from the date of the report.

Source: FFIEC Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering InfoBase

What happens when a SAR is filed?

"A financial institution files the SAR and it's then processed by the Detroit Computing Center. Detroit makes the information available to law enforcement. FinCEN does its own work with SARs and other bank secrecy reports. We have analysts that data mine looking for connections. They can make a proactive report to law enforcement. Federal law enforcement has access to all BSA records and can do their own work. We also make information available to local law enforcement through Operation Gateway as is appropriate."

Source: FinCEN regulatory specialist

Is your bank spying on you? See "Suspicious Activity Reports: Terrorism and you."