US Secret Service Agent Careers

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The United States Secret Service is the oldest, and perhaps the most elite, federal law enforcement agency in the nation. Created in 1865 to combat the counterfeit currency problem that occurred during the Civil War, the Secret Service has a long history of excellence.

According to the Secret Service’s Annual Report for fiscal year 2011, the Secret Service has a $1.5 billion budget, which accomplished a number of notable goals:

  • Provided incident-free protection for nearly 3,300 domestic stops and 376 international stops for the President, Vice President and other national leaders
  • Provided incident-free protection for more than 2,300 travel stops by 216 foreign heads of states from 136 countries
  • Arrested 9,022 suspects of financial crimes, which was an increase of more than 8 percent over FY2010
  • Recovered more than $70 million in seized assets
  • Increased the number of asset seizures by 34 percent

How to Become a US Secret Service Agent

Individuals who want to learn how to become a Secret Service agent must meet the strict requirements of the federal GL-7 level, the minimum level at which agents are hired.

To qualify at the GL-7 level, candidates must either possess bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with superior academic achievement, which is defined as either graduating in the top-third of a college or university class or possessing at least a 3.5 GPA in all courses related to the major and a 3.0 in all other classes within the degree program. Individuals who are unable to meet the superior academic requirements can qualify of the have at least one, full year of graduate studies beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Individuals without a formal education may qualify if they possess at least 3 years of specialized experience in carrying out investigations, conducting surveillance, or organizing evidence for prosecutors.

Many Secret Service agent jobs must meet the requirements of the GL-9 level, which includes possessing a master’s degree, LLB or JD degree from an accredited college or university or possessing at least four years of specialized experience carrying out investigations, conducting surveillance or undercover activities, or organizing evidence for prosecutors.

All candidates must complete a number of test/assessments to become Secret Service agents:

  • A physical fitness evaluation
  • Vision and hearing tests
  • The Treasury Enforcement Agent exam
  • A report writing test
  • A series of in-depth interviews
  • A top-secret clearance

 

U.S. Secret Service Agent Career Options

U.S. Secret Service agents are mandated by Congress to carry out two, distinct missions:

  • Protection of national and visiting foreign leaders
  • Criminal investigations

Protection

The protective mission of the Secret Service began in 1901 to protect the President and Vice President of the United States. Since then, its protective jurisdiction has expanded, with U.S. Secret Service agents in the protective mission now responsible for also protecting:

  • The president-elect and vice president-elect
  • The immediate families of the President and Vice President
  • Former presidents and their spouses for their lifetime
  • Children of former presidents until the age of 16
  • Visiting heads of states or governments and their spouses and distinguished foreign visitors to the United States
  • Representatives of the United States performing special missions outside of the U.S.
  • Presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses within 3 months of a general presidential election
  • National Special Security Events designated by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

Investigation

As the nation’s financial structure, technologies and transactions have evolved, so has the agency’s investigative mission. Although Secret Service agent jobs initially involved investigating cases of U.S. counterfeiting, advances in technology have expanded the agency’s role to include the protection of the nation’s payment and financial systems.

Since 1984, Secret Service agent jobs included the investigation of:

  • Financial institution fraud
  • Computer and telecommunications fraud
  • False identification documents
  • Access device fraud
  • Advance fee fraud
  • Electronic funds transfers
  • Money laundering

Current counterfeiting investigations include not only paper money and coins, but also U.S. Treasury checks, U.S. postage stamps, and Department of Agriculture food coupons. The agency also handles the counterfeiting of foreign currency that occurs domestically.

Secret Service criminal investigations have since expanded to include:

  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Telecommunications fraud (cellular and hard wire)
  • Computer fraud
  • Automated payment system and teller machine fraud
  • Direct deposit fraud
  • Electronic funds transfer (EFT) fraud
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) fraud
  • Farm Credit Administration violations
  • Fictitious or fraudulent commercial instruments and foreign securities

Today, the major offenses investigated by the Secret Service include:

    • Identity Crimes
      • Credit card/debit card fraud
      • Check fraud
      • Bank fraud
      • False identification fraud
      • Passport/Visa fraud
      • Identity theft

 

  • Counterfeit and Fraudulent Identification: Producing, transferring, or possessing false identification as to defraud the U.S. government
  • Access Device Fraud: Includes credit card and debit card numbers, ATM machines, computer passwords, personal ID numbers, long-distance access codes, and SIM codes within cell phones
  • Computer Fraud: Includes unauthorized access of computers, personal identification theft, disruption of e-commerce, and the introduction of malware for financial gain
  • Forgery: Includes stealing and forging checks or bonds
  • Money Laundering: Includes money laundering activities that occur through financial institution fraud, access device fraud, food stamp fraud, and U.S. currency counterfeiting
  • Electronic Benefits Transfer Fraud: Includes fraud associated with the Food Stamp Act of 1977 and EBT cards
  • Asset Forfeiture: Includes the seizing and forfeiture of assets
  • Advance Fee Fraud: Includes the scheme that involves a request to assist an individual in a financial transaction that will result in the transfer of a large sum of money

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