Hope for Justice training for 10,000 American bank workers to detect trafficking

Hope for Justice is delivering training to Bank of the West’s 10,000 employees so they are equipped to identify human trafficking in-person and in customers’ financial transactions.

Laura Levy, Head of Learning at Hope for Justice, said: “We are delighted to be working with Bank of the West, enabling their staff to be an effective frontline defence against human trafficking. Human trafficking is a tragedy for millions of individuals, but for criminals, it is big business. These profits, and traffickers’ expenses, leave a trace through their financial transactions. That means banks and other financial institutions are in a prime position to spot the signs of human trafficking.”

Human trafficking generates over $150 billion of illegal profits annually. These profits have to be disguised before they can be introduced into the legitimate financial system (known as money laundering). Through their anti-money laundering strategies, therefore, banks have an opportunity to detect the criminals responsible. Research by BAE Systems found that 69% of financial institutions in the US have had to investigate transactions linked to human trafficking, much higher than other reported markets. But 75% of employees within financial institutions are not confident in their ability to identify human trafficking signs amongst transactions.

Hope for Justice has developed training to equip bank employees to identify indicators of trafficking in a person’s financial transactions or when they use a bank’s services. This training – a 45-minute online course followed by in-person training – is currently being rolled out across Bank of the West’s 600 branches.

Once a bank employee has reason to suspect a customer of being involved in trafficking, as a victim or perpetrator, they can file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). This is then investigated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the U.S. Treasury.

Dr Richard Schoeberl, Hope for Justice’s U.S. Team Lead for Investigations, with over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, explained: “It’s about spotting what should be there but isn’t, as well as what is there but shouldn’t be. A typical person’s bank account will show money going out for bills, groceries, car payments – the costs we incur from daily life. But someone who is having their finances controlled by a trafficker won’t have those expenses. Instead, you might see lots of cash coming in and out, or charges for online advertisements, hotel rooms, and multiple cell phones.”

To find out more about how our training can support your organisation to be more resilient against human trafficking and modern day slavery, visit the Hope for Justice Learning Academy.

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