NeurIPS 2023
Conference paper

Realistic Synthetic Financial Transactions for Anti-Money Laundering Models

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With the widespread digitization of finance and the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies, the sophistication of fraud schemes devised by cybercriminals is growing. Money laundering -- the movement of illicit funds to conceal their origins -- can cross bank and national boundaries, producing complex transaction patterns. The UN estimates 2-5\% of global GDP or \$0.8 - \$2.0 trillion dollars are laundered globally each year. Unfortunately, real data to train machine learning models to detect laundering is generally not available, and previous synthetic data generators have had significant shortcomings. A realistic, standardized, publicly-available benchmark is needed for comparing models and for the advancement of the area. To this end, this paper contributes a synthetic financial transaction dataset generator and a set of synthetically generated AML (Anti-Money Laundering) datasets. We have worked to calibrate this agent-based generator to match real transactions as closely as possible and we made the datasets public. We describe the generator in detail and we demonstrate how the data can be used to measure the performance of Graph Neural Networks in detecting money laundering. In a key way, these measurements are even better than using real data: the ground truth labels are complete, whilst many laundering transactions in real data are never detected.