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U.S. Secret Service Forms Single Cyber Fraud Task Force

The U.S. Secret Service merged its Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) and Financial Crimes Task Forces (FCTFS) into a single network known as the Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF).

The move was the result of two years of planning, the Secret Service said in a press release, which has resulted in CFTFs being mobilized in 42 offices throughout the United States, as well as in London and Rome.

The decision to merge the two teams was a simple one, as the lines between “cyber and financial crimes has steadily blurred, to the point today where the two—cyber and financial crimes—cannot be effectively disentangled,” according to the agency. “Online payments and banking are now globally pervasive, credit card numbers and personal information are illegally sold on the Internet and darkweb, and cryptocurrencies have become one of the primary means by which criminals launder their illicit profits. No longer can investigators effectively pursue a financial or cybercrime investigation without understanding both the financial and Internet sectors, as well as the technologies and institutions that power each industry.”

With the creation of the CFTF, the Secret Service said it intends to improve coordination, sharing of information, and dissemination of its best practices, while continuing its core work of investigating cyber-enabled financial crimes—like business email compromise scams, ransomware attacks, and data breaches.

The decision to merge the two teams will also help the United States address the growing threat of transnational cybercrime, which is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016. Subsequent national strategies have identified cybercrime as a top national security risk.

The reorganization was also announced at time when the Secret Service may be moving from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—where it was relocated after 9/11—back to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“Two bills in the Senate and House of Representatives have outlined that possible transition as an effort to get the Secret Service to reprioritize its investigative mission,” according to CyberScoop. “The White House’s budget plan for fiscal year 2021 also backs the change.”

The Senate bill was introduced by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in May to improve accountability at the agency and enhance its investigative priorities.

“In my opinion, the Treasury is a better fit for the Secret Service as the Secret Service has primary responsibility dealing with currency forgery,” Graham said in a statement. “In addition, they will receive renewed support from Treasury to combat financial cybercrimes. Both are essential to maintaining the financial integrity of the United States.”

The House bill was introduced by Roger Williams (R-TX) and Denny Heck (D-WA) and has received wide bipartisan support—especially in response to COVID-19 where the world has seen an increase in scams leveraging the pandemic.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen brazen attempts to defraud Americans—Washingtonians in particular—out of their hard-earned money and assistance checks,” Heck said in a statement. “This commonsense, bipartisan change to return the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department will better equip the agency to stop these financial crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”