Posted by: Jack Henry | August 14, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Smurfing

Dear Editrix,

Speaking of criminal activities like kiting, how about smurfing?


Gargamel and Azrael

Dear G and A,

See what happens when you little devils get a bit of freedom? Well, here is an answer to your question about smurfing—in the banking world, the gaming world, and the drug world.

From Wikipedia:

Structuring, also known as smurfing in banking jargon, is the practice of executing financial transactions such as making bank deposits in a specific pattern, calculated to avoid triggering financial institutions to file reports required by law, such as the United States’ Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). … Structuring may be done in the context of money laundering, fraud, and other financial crimes. Legal restrictions on structuring are concerned with limiting the size of domestic transactions for individuals.

Structuring is the act of parceling what would otherwise be a large financial transaction into a series of smaller transactions to avoid scrutiny by regulators and law enforcement. Typically, each of the smaller transactions is executed in an amount below some statutory limit that normally does not require a financial institution to file a report with a government agency. Criminal enterprises may employ several agents ("smurfs") to make the transaction.

The term "smurfing" is derived from the image of the comic book characters, the Smurfs, having a large group of many small entities. Miami-based lawyer Gregory Baldwin is said to have coined the term in the 1980s.

As far as gaming, I didn’t find an official source, but I read a few “boards” about the term smurfing. In gaming, smurfing means to create different accounts to disguise who you are, so that people don’t know what your skill level is. This is one way an experienced player can be matched up with the inexperienced, and gain easy wins.

And who knew? Meth makers also make use of smurfs to do their smurfing. What is smurfing for a meth maker, you ask? Smurfing is when you get people (friends, family, or whoever) to go into the store to buy the allergy medicine that is used to make meth. The individuals can only purchase one or two packages of Sudafed at a time. The meth maker later gathers all of the packages to create his or her payload. This is similar to smurfing in the banking arena in that the smaller purchases or smaller deposits are to stay under the radar of those watching for bigger chunks of money (or meth) to be moved around.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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