Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Hand with tweezers holding id photo over passport as if forging the travel documents

Online banking customers enjoy instant access to their account balances from their computers and mobile devices. Checking account balances, reviewing transactions, paying bills and easily transferring money between accounts is a nice perk of the service. A Sandy Springs, Ga., man used his online banking access illegally to carry out a nationwide bank fraud and identity theft scheme.

Sean Christopher Williams, 40, executed his fraudulent schemes by stealing the identities of approximately 35 victims, including names and Social Security Numbers. This stolen personal information was used to open bogus, unfunded accounts at multiple financial institutions.

The next stage of the scheme involved transferring fraudulent funds from one account to another, while knowing that the transferring account didn’t have any funds to support the transfer. (Sounds like the shell game where a small item is quickly shifted from under one shell to another to fool the observer guessing which shell is hiding the item.)

Investigators discovered that Williams used the receiving account to pay off debt, including credit cards and student loans, before the receiving bank could figure out that there were no funds coming in. The sophisticated identity theft scam that impacted many victims across the country also cost multiple financial institutions more than $185,000.

After pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud and attempt and one count of aggravated identity theft, Williams was sentenced to serve three years in prison and five years of supervised release. He must also pay restitution in the amount of $185,920.

This type of fraud scheme is very difficult to unravel, especially since it involved victims and bank accounts located across the country. Congratulations to the FBI for paying attention to this sleight of hand trick the fraudster from Georgia tried to pull. While this type of scheme is one of the oldest in the book of fraud, Williams could not fool the FBI.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “FBI: Sandy Springs man sentenced for nationwide bank fraud, identity theft,” published by Fox 5 Atlanta on March 14, 2021.

PHILADELPHIA – Feds say a Sandy Springs man will serve three years in prison for an elaborate fraud scheme that involved using fraudulent bank accounts and stealing people’s identities.

The FBI said Sean Christopher Williams, 40 of Sandy Springs, cost banks more than $185,000 and stole the identities of around 35 individual victims whose names and social security numbers were attached to the fraudulent accounts.


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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.