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The Investigative Mission

Since its inception in 1865, the Secret Service was created to investigate and prevent counterfeiting. Today the agency’s investigative mission has evolved from enforcing counterfeiting laws to safeguarding the payment and financial systems of the United States from a wide range of financial and computer-based crimes. To combat these crimes, the Secret Service has adopted a proactive approach, using advanced technologies and capitalizing on the power of task force partnerships.

The U.S. Secret Service has a pivotal role in securing the nation’s critical infrastructures, specifically in the areas of cyber, banking and finance. Other directives address the need to combat transnational organized crime that targets the citizens and financial institutions of the United States. In response to the globalization of technology- based threats, the U.S. Secret Service’s investigative mission abroad is growing as well, creating the need for a heightened overseas liaison presence.

Today, multi-disciplined forensics experts, investigative experts and intelligence analysts provide rapid response and critical information in support of financial analysis, infrastructure protection and criminal investigations.

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An ultraviolet light source is used to verify the authenticity of a questioned note.

An ultraviolet light source is used to verify the authenticity of a questioned note.

Two criminal investigators looking at a map on a computer screen.

The Secret Service constantly implements and evaluates prevention and response measures to guard against electronic crimes as well as other computer related fraud.

Special agents comb through seized evidence following the arrests of several involved in a counterfeiting operation.

Special agents comb through seized evidence following the arrests of several individuals involved in a counterfeiting operation.

Cyber Operations

As a result of the amalgamation of advanced technology and the Internet, both the quantity and sophistication of cybercrimes targeting U.S. financial institutions and critical infrastructure have increased. Today, criminal trends show an increased use of phishing emails, account takeovers, malicious software, hacking attacks and network intrusions resulting in significant data breaches. To protect the nation’s financial infrastructure from cyber and financial criminals, the Secret Service has adopted a multipronged approach that includes:

  • Providing advanced computer forensics and network intrusion investigation training to enhance the skills of special agents through the Electronic Crimes Special Agent Program (ECSAP)
  • Establishing a Computer Emergency Response Team in coordination with Carnegie Mellon University
  • Maximizing partnerships with international law enforcement counterparts through overseas field offices and by forward deploying ECSAP agents to international working groups
  • Providing training, examination services and research into cutting edge processes to extract potential evidence from mobile devices to include cellular phones, skimming devices and GPS units
  • Providing computer-based training to state and local law enforcement partners to enhance their investigative skills at the National Computer Forensics Institute
  • Collaborating through an established network of 46 Financial Crimes Task Forces and 39 Electronic Crimes Task Forces

We should have a regular permanent force whose job it will be to put these counterfeiters out of business.

- Hugh McCulloch – Secretary of the Treasury

Criminal Investigations

The Secret Service has evolved into an agency recognized worldwide for its investigative expertise and for its aggressive and innovative approach to the detection, investigation and prevention of financial crimes. Every day, the Secret Service conducts investigations to identify, locate and apprehend criminal organizations and individuals targeting the nation’s critical financial infrastructure and payment systems involved in:

  • Counterfeiting of U.S. currency
  • Access device fraud (including credit and debit fraud)
  • Complex cyber crimes
  • Identity crimes and theft
  • Network intrusions
  • Bank fraud
  • Illicit financing operations

Investigative Support

The personnel of the Investigative Support Division of the U.S. Secret Service are responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive criminal investigative analysis program. Investigative analysts, special agents, and technical personnel actively work as part of an investigative team to provide rapid responses on investigative information relating to individuals or groups that are involved in criminal activity, which includes jurisdictions outside of the United States that impact financial institutions and the American economy.

Investigative analysts are trained to gather information and use various methods of analysis to sort through large amount of data in order to identify potential targets, links between figures, patterns and events and assets subject to seizure and forfeiture. They conduct independent research on credit card theft, identity theft, money laundering, counterfeiting and other financial crimes cases.

A high powered microscope is used by investigators to verify the printing method used to create a collection of deceptive notes.

A high powered microscope is used by investigators to verify the printing method used to create a collection of deceptive notes.

An investigative assistant examines the print characteristics of a counterfeit bank note.

An investigative assistant examines the print characteristics of a counterfeit bank note.

A counterfeit specialist verifies the authenticity of this genuine $100 banknote.

A counterfeit specialist verifies the authenticity of this genuine $100 banknote.

Counterfeit

The threat of counterfeit U.S. currency to the financial system of the United States has grown in recent years. Advances in technology, the availability of scanning and printing devices and the adoption of the U.S. dollar by nations as their legal tender have exacerbated the threat. To counter these threats, the Secret Service focuses on strategic international investigations targeting counterfeiters and their distribution networks. The agency has also initiated a comprehensive international forensic counterfeit detection training program for bankers and law enforcement officers overseas.

Secret Service examiners extract stolen account data from a device attached to the inside of a payment terminal.

Secret Service examiners extract stolen account data from a device attached to the inside of a payment terminal.

Secret Service polygraph examiners assess the suspects change in physiology to determine whether they are being deceptive or truthful.

Secret Service polygraph examiners assess the credibility of an examinee’s statements by evaluating change in specific physiological indicators during an examination.

Forensic photographer uses alternative light sources to visualize fingerprints found on evidence.

Forensic photographer uses alternative light sources to visualize fingerprints found on evidence.

Forensic Services

The Secret Service is home to an advanced forensics laboratory, which includes the world’s largest ink library and the Forensic Information System for Handwriting (FISH). The lab is one of approximately 400 worldwide accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board under the International program . The laboratory is also accredited by the International Association for Property and Evidence, Inc. and is the only crime laboratory within the Department of Homeland Security with this accreditation. The Secret Service also provides expert analysis related to polygraph examinations, fingerprints, false identification documents, credit cards and other related forensic science areas.

The Secret Service deploys a unique blend of technologies and expertise in forensic and documentary photography, graphic and web design, geospatial imaging, video/multimedia production, forensic audio/image enhancement, forensic speaker recognition, as well as three-dimensional (3D) LiDAR data collection, modeling, animation and simulation.

In 1994, Congress mandated the Secret Service provide forensic and technical assistance in matters involving missing and exploited children. The Secret Service offers this assistance to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Writing ink examination performed by Secret Service document analysts and chemists during a federal investigation.

The Secret Service has the only International Ink Library, which contains more than 12,000 ink samples used in forensic examinations.

Forensic document examiners evaluate threatening letters and questioned documents for evidence to determine authorship.

Forensic document examiners evaluate threatening letters to determine authorship.

Forensic scientists use state of the art techniques to enhance audio and video to identify suspect in a child abduction case.

Forensic scientists use state-of-the-art techniques to enhance audio and video to assist field investigators.