Someone was concerned about the legality of leaving USA with a lot of money. Does CBP enforce that, and how? Seems they would have to already have an alert on the person's name, to catch them when TSA scans the passport. Not encouraging anyone to break the law, but it seems there isn't much effort to enforce it.

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    In reality, tips and investigations is a major part of how anything is enforced everywhere (drugs, weapons, illegal animals, antiques, goods that should taxed, or any other type of contraband). – Relaxed May 30 at 8:10

One way is by using currency-sniffing dogs who are trained to detect the odor of currency. They could deploy such dogs in international departure areas, and search passengers or their luggage if the dog alerts.

CBP acknowledges that they employ currency-sniffing dogs (near the bottom of the page), and reports on a case at a land border crossing where a dog detected undeclared currency, which was seized and the driver arrested.

  • Still seems lax—I’ve been in and out of twenty or thirty countries, with nine or more air exits from USA and never seen such. – WGroleau May 30 at 7:07
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    @WGroleau Even if the chance is low, if the penalty is high, then you're better off declaring it. – user253751 May 30 at 11:20
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    @WGroleau My guess would be that it also depends a lot on where you are going. Travellers to some standard tourist destination are probably much less likely to be searched for undeclared funds then those boarding a plane to some microstate mainly known for its "no questions asked"-banking policy. – mlk May 30 at 14:13
  • @user253751, obeying the law is generally a good idea, but I’m not likely to ever see enough at once to have the temptation. The question was merely about enforcing not being very visible. – WGroleau May 30 at 14:35

Many countries have random spot checks in the departures area. I’ve already seen that in the UK boarding a flight to Las Vegas, for instance. They did ask everybody boarding but I don’t remember if they actually performed any searches, though. They probably base their decision to search on the reaction of the people.

Depending on the bills used, if a large number of bills are required, then this is usually quite visible during security scans (though it may depend on the material used for the bills). In countries or places where security scans are performed by the same people handling this kind of issue (e.g. for some weird reason Eurostar security scans in Paris are performed by French customs), they can easily inquire at this point or tip off the people in charge of that.

But of course, enforcement is necessarily spotty. Unless you search everyone, you will miss most of the money going through. The idea is to catch enough, and impose severe penalties on them to deter others, very similarly to other forms of enforcement.

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    If you are trying to prevent money laundering, catching some mules is only the first link in the chain. There is no point wasting resources trying to catch and question every mule. You want information from them, not the money they are carrying. – alephzero May 30 at 14:26

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