Ask Amber: Are AML Clearance Certificates a Scam?

Hey Compliance Nerd!
I got an email from a customer asking for an “AML Clearance Certificate” from us. The customer’s email said that this was something that their bank had requested, and that once they had it, they would start doing a lot more trading. They even sent us a link to a site that would apparently issue the certificate once background checks were conducted, but something didn’t seem right. I did a quick Google search, and everything that I’ve read seems to indicate that this is a scam. I don’t want to get caught up in a scam, but I’m afraid of losing a customer. What’s the deal with these certificates?
Not Clear(ed)

Hey Not Clear(ed)!
First of all, good instincts!
An “AML Clearance Certificate” is a fictional requirement, although sometimes the scammers will go so far as to set up a website for a fictitious company that issues these “certificates” (this allows them to collect both victims’ banking and credit card information). If anyone is asking you for an “AML Clearance Certificate”, they are participating in a scam.
Do not, under any circumstances, provide such a person with personal, company, or financial details.
The same logic applies if you are asked for an “anti-terrorism certificate” or an “anti-money laundering source of funds certificate”…
This scam has used many names, but the setup is always the same. The scammer will say that they want to send funds but, need a certificate from you first. The dollar value is usually larger than the victims’ normal transactions, and there is a time limit. In the most sickening example that I’ve seen, the scammers targeted charities, posing as people or organizations that wanted to make donations.
As part of the first step, the scammers collect your company and banking information and helpfully suggest a site for a “company” that can help you get your “certificate.” Generally, this site requires a credit card payment (these may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars). In more sophisticated scams, the site’s fine print states that the certificates are “not authorized by any government or international body” and that there are absolutely no refunds. This means that even if the victim reports the scam to their credit card company, the card company may not be able to issue a refund.
At this stage, the scammers have the victim’s banking and credit card information. They may use this to conduct transactions (like draining the bank account or paying for things with the credit card), or simply sell the information on the dark web to other scammers.
At any point, you can report the scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre either online or by phone (1-888-495-8501).
If you have already provided some, or all of your financial details, it’s in your best interest to act quickly.   Contact your financial institutions and let them know what’s happened. They will be able to close your existing accounts, issue new accounts and review your recent transactions with you.

Amber D. Scott, MBA, CIPP, CBP, CAMS
Founder & Chief AML Ninja, Outlier Solutions Inc.
Amber is a long time, self-described “compliance nerd”. Amber is a firm believer in the idea that good compliance can enable good business. Find out how at or reach out to her directly at [email protected].

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