Seven Misconceptions REALTORS® May Have About FINTRAC

Every year, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) audits hundreds of real estate brokerages across Canada to determine whether they’re meeting their anti-money laundering obligations.

In some cases, after an audit, FINTRAC may find a brokerage isn’t meeting their obligations and, in turn, the broker can face a hefty fine. These fines range in severity but can reach more than $250,000!

Avoid audits and fines

There are plenty of misconceptions about the role REALTORS® play in helping the government stop money laundering and how the obligations may impact a broker’s business.

CREA has developed resources to help make compliance with FINTRAC easier. View and download the resources on

Today we help dispel fact from fiction so you can meet your obligations and minimize your risk of being fined.

Misconception: Once you submit a Suspicious Transaction Report you can no longer proceed with a transaction.

Reality: Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), just because an agent or broker files a Suspicious Transaction Report on a transaction doesn’t mean they can’t complete the real estate transaction. However, agents may wish to talk to the brokerage’s compliance officer to discuss how best to proceed as the brokerage may have its own practices and procedures (for example, enhanced risk mitigation measures) when dealing with such transactions.

Misconception: You must record an account number on a Receipt of Funds Record when receiving cash.

Reality: Account numbers do not need to be recorded on a Receipt of Funds Record when funds are received in cash.

For greater clarity, account numbers are only necessary when an account is affected. Some examples of when accounts are affected are listed in D.2 of CREA’s Receipt of Funds Record.

For all other forms of funds (cheque, wire transfer, e-transfer, certified cheque, or money order or bank draft when not paid for in cash) the account from which the money is withdrawn is deemed to have been affected and needs to be recorded on a Receipt of Funds Record.

Misconception: To comply with privacy legislation, you must inform and seek consent from your client prior to completing and submitting a Suspicious Transaction Report.


Reports such as a Suspicious Transaction Report, which are designed to provide information to FINTRAC regarding possible money laundering activities, fall within a limited exception to privacy legislation. A Suspicious Transaction Report is submitted without the knowledge or consent of the individuals concerned.

In fact, the PCMLTFA Regulations note you must not disclose that you have made, are making or will make a Suspicious Transaction Report submission.   

Misconception: You can verify the identity of a client who is not physical present by viewing their photo ID over video conference or another type of virtual application.

Reality: Although FINTRAC temporarily permitted such methods during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has since withdrawn those temporary measures. Now looking at a photo ID through video software such as Facetime, Skype or Zoom is not enough.

You can use technology to verify the ID of a client IF the technology can determine the document’s authenticity. This may require you to ask the client to scan their valid and current ID using the camera on their mobile device, and then use the technology to compare features of the ID to authenticate characteristics, security features, or markers. Please see FINTRAC’s guidance on the subject.

Misconception: The buyer’s agent is responsible for completing the Receipt of Funds Record when funds are deposited into the lawyer’s trust account.

Reality: In this case, the funds are going directly to a lawyer’s trust account. The onus for recording receipt of funds no longer rests with the broker or agent.

It’s important to note the interpretation of “receiving funds”. CREA’s understanding, through correspondence with FINTRAC, is that a broker or agent “receives funds” when funds are deposited into the brokerage’s trust account. However, if the funds don’t get deposited into the brokerage’s account, then no funds are deemed to have been received and no Receipt of Funds Record needs to be kept by the brokerages.

In other words, if no REALTOR® sees the money, then no Receipt of Funds Record is kept by the brokerage.

Misconception: Without exception, agents must verify the ID of their client during a transaction.

Reality: There are two exceptions to this practice.

  1. If the agent has ID’d the client in a past transaction and the agent has no doubts about the information that was previously used to verify the identity/confirm existence of the client.

2. Brokerages don’t need to identify certain public bodies and very large corporations, a very large trust, or a consolidated subsidiary of these entities. A public body may include:

  • a Canadian provincial or federal department or Crown Agency;
  • incorporated Canadian municipal body (a town, for example); or
  • a Canadian hospital authority.

A very large corporation or trust may include:

  • an entity with net assets of $75 million or more on its last audited balance sheet.

FINTRAC provides more information on its website.

Misconception: If a brokerage keeps satisfactory records of their client refusing to provide ID, the PCMLFTA permits, without penalty, the brokerage to continue with the transaction.

Reality: The strict legal position is that a failure to identify a client, for any reason, would place the broker in non-compliance with the PCMLTFA. However, FINTRAC has stated whether penalties are invoked for such a failure depends upon a complete analysis of a broker’s compliance history as well as their office’s compliance systems.

It’s entirely at a broker’s discretion whether or not to proceed with such transactions and, if a broker does proceed, FINTRAC advises the broker should submit a Suspicious Transaction Report.

Resources for REALTORS®

As REALTORS® you have access to key resources on, including an office FINTRAC policy manual template, FAQs, helpful contact details, and forms that can be used as step-by-step guides to a politically exposed person (PEP) and beneficial ownership obligations. CREA also offers a free intro to FINTRAC webinar on the CREA Learning Hub.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Alim Jessa, CREA’s Legal Counsel, practiced as a litigator for several years. He now uses his experience interpreting contracts and legislation to provide CREA, boards, and associations with practical advice with respect to privacy laws, FINTRAC, and corporate governance. When he’s not working, Alim enjoys traveling, barbecuing, and spending time with family.

2 thoughts on “Seven Misconceptions REALTORS® May Have About FINTRAC”

  1. Hi Alim,
    A question for you regarding FINTRAC Receipt of Funds. If a deposit is delivered directly to the listing brokerage, from a buyer that worked with a cooperating brokerage, who fills out the receipt of funds? In this case the buyer’s agent never had the deposit cheque. The buyer delivered it to the listing brokerage.

    1. FINTRAC provides guidance on this exact scenario. See 1.d) Receipt of Funds Records:, which we’ve reproduce below. The guidance outlines that it is the responsibility of the buyer’s broker or sales representative to complete and retain the receipt of funds record. Please note that recording some of the data fields are on a best efforts basis to account for the fact that the buyer’s broker or sales representative may be unable to obtain some key pieces of information.

      If you are a real estate broker or sales representative and you receive funds from a client represented by another real estate broker or sales representative, then it is the broker or sales representative that holds the relationship with the client providing the funds that must keep the receipt of funds record, and the required part of the corporate records for a corporation.

      As a real estate broker or sales representative that is required to keep a receipt of funds record when another real estate broker or sales representative receives funds from your client, you are not required to record the following information, if you have taken reasonable measures to obtain it, but were unable to:

      • the account number;
      • the type of account that is affected by the transaction;
      • the full name of the account holder; or
      • the reference number for the transaction.

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