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GIS Gives United States Postal Service a Crime-Fighting Edge

November 10, 2008

Redlands, California-The United States Postal Service (USPS) Bank Service Act (BSA) Compliance Office is taking advantage of geographic information system (GIS) technology from ESRI to effectively detect suspicious activity, using sophisticated analysis and mapping to monitor millions of money order transactions across the United States. GIS maps show where suspicious activities may be occurring and link transactional data to reveal potential criminal patterns. Mapping and analysis also help USPS managers make sense of extensive transactional databases and millions of bits of data to ensure they comply with regulations.

“There are a number of federal anti-money-laundering laws and regulations that directly impact the Postal Service as an issuer of money orders,” says Al Gillum, subject matter expert for the United States Postal Service BSA Compliance Office. “We have responsibilities to monitor transactions and identify potentially suspicious activity through postal money orders. We recognized GIS as a powerful tool to look at all our data. We can use it to bring data together, analyze it, and share it with others. We can then make decisions that are based on good intelligence.”

The USPS BSA Compliance Office launched a pilot project to test a Web-based GIS application, which proved to be a success, and the department began using GIS full-time in 2006.

The agency deploys Information Builders’ enterprise business intelligence system, WebFOCUS, which uses ESRI’s ArcIMS technology for its GIS functionality. WebFOCUS integrates a wide variety of data from diverse operational databases throughout USPS. It provides Web-based geoanalysis and reporting tools that the USPS BSA Compliance Office uses to carry out tasks in a fast and efficient manner.  

The BSA Compliance Office can identify a post office or series of offices that have an unusually high number of suspicious money orders over a certain time period; view money orders that look suspicious, such as a large number of sequentially numbered money orders; or see where unusual money order transactions have occurred. The office can also determine whether a number of money orders have been purchased from numerous locations and have been cashed at a single location. The data is used not only to investigate suspicious activity and apprehend suspects but also to prosecute criminals.

The USPS BSA Compliance Office is looking at ways to further extend its GIS capabilities. It is contemplating integrating the technology into its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) compliance programs and considering how the technology can be used to detect the fraudulent use of debit cards at post offices.

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