Your international money transfers might not be as discreet as you think. Senator Ron Wyden and The Wall Street Journal have learned that US law enforcement can access details of money transfers without a warrant through an obscure surveillance program the Arizona attorney general’s office created in 2014. A database stored at a nonprofit, the Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC), provides full names and amounts for larger transfers (above $500) sent between the US, Mexico and 22 other regions through services like Western Union, MoneyGram and Viamericas. The program covers data for numerous Caribbean and Latin American countries in addition to Canada, China, France, Malaysia, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine and the US Virgin Islands. Some domestic transfers also enter the data set.
The concern, of course, is that officials can obtain sensitive transaction details without court oversight or customers’ knowledge. An unscrupulous officer could secretly track large transfers. Wyden adds that the people in the database are more likely to be immigrants, minorities and low-income residents who don’t have bank accounts and already have fewer privacy protectoins. The American Civil Liberties Union also asserts that the subpoenas used to obtain this data violate federal law. Arizona issued at least 140 of these subpoenas between 2014 and 2021.