A money services business (MSB) is any organization that transmits or converts money. These services can involve currency exchange, check cashing, issuing traveler’s checks, and/or transmitting money. The best-known MSB is Western Union, but there are thousands of smaller operators, frequently specializing in wire transfers to specific countries. Someone wanting to transfer money walks into an MSB, pays cash, and designates on a message form the amount of cash to be sent, where to send it, and who will be receiving the funds at the other end. The MSB selected will likely have the capability to transfer funds to a specific location where an associate or an intermediary can receive the funds.
Money transfer schemes typically involve using a large number of MSBs to send money via many small transactions. It is quite possible that intermediaries will be asked to walk into an MSB and transfer money, in exchange for a commission. These admittedly time-consuming activities can effectively hide the illicit transfer of funds among the much larger volume of legitimate transactions that flow through MSBs on a daily basis. A further benefit for money launderers is that MSBs are not required to check identity if the amount being transferred is less than $3,000 (larger MSBs may require a form of identification for smaller transfers).