Here's How a $10K Withdrawal From Your Bank Could Cause You Financial Problems (2024)

Withdrawing money from your checking or savings account may not seem like a suspicious activity. After all, it's your money. Even if it's a large amount, like $10,000, who's to say withdrawing it would call for an investigation?

Turns out, withdrawing $10,000 or more from your checking or savings will prompt your bank to file a report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (FinCEN). It sounds more serious than it actually is, but if you withdraw $10,000 frequently enough -- or worse: break up $10,000 into smaller withdrawals -- you could find yourself under legal scrutiny. To avoid any problems with FinCEN, here's what you should know.

Why banks report withdrawals of $10,000 or more

Ever since the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, banks have been required to report any transaction involving $10,000 or more to the federal government, whether it's a cash deposit or a withdrawal. Often, a bank's software will automatically file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) electronically for transactions that exceed $10,000, even if you're not aware of it.

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Though it might seem like a violation of your privacy, the Bank Secrecy Act helps the federal government track and prevent financial crimes, like money laundering. When banks fail to report large cash transactions, criminal and suspicious activities can fly under the radar. For instance, between 2004 and 2007, the bank Wachovia -- now a part of Wells Fargo -- allowed about $400 billion in drug cartel money to flow through its banks largely because it failed to report transactions to the federal government.

When a $10,000 withdrawal can become a problem

To be clear, a $10,000 withdrawal isn't a criminal activity per se. In fact, FINCen likely receives so many uninteresting CTRs a day, you won't trigger suspicion through a large withdrawal alone. But there are some activities that will put greater vigilance on your bank account. The most common is called structuring.

Structuring involves breaking up a large cash transaction, like a $10,000 withdrawal, into smaller parts specifically to evade the Bank Secrecy Act's reporting requirements. For instance, if you withdraw $12,000 in total from your checking account, but break it into three $4,000 withdrawals, the transaction might be seen as structuring.

Of course, you could have good reasons for making a series of withdrawals totaling $10,000 or more. But if you do it frequently enough, your bank could report it as suspicious activity. Once flagged, structuring can embroil you in a legal investigation. At that point, if you're caught intentionally evading a bank's reporting requirements -- even if you're just a private person who doesn't want the government keeping tabs on your life -- you could face criminal or financial charges.

How to safely (and legally) withdraw $10,000 or more

The best way to withdraw $10,000 or more is to simply do it. Don't try to break it into smaller installments, or get smart and Venmo your friend half and have them withdraw it for you. If you don't want your activities tracked, don't do anything suspicious that will make your bank report it to FINCen.

Truthfully, unless you are engaging in something illegal, you have nothing to worry about. FINCen knows large withdrawals and deposits happen everyday, and it's not concerned with legal cash flows. It's only when you behave suspiciously that you could find yourself under investigation.

If you're concerned, you can always talk to your bank. Otherwise, just keep withdrawing as you normally would, and you won't run into any serious financial problems.

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Here's How a $10K Withdrawal From Your Bank Could Cause You Financial Problems (2024)
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