One Phone Call

Binary data with the word IDENTITY appears in the shadow of a hand. Concept for digital crime. Blue toned image.

In this plugged-in digital age, most of us carry mobile phones. And it’s become second nature to give out our digits without a second thought. Whether we’re signing up for a new service or just meeting someone at a bar, our cell phone numbers are often freely given out. Yet these devices usually have huge amounts of our data stored, from banking information to social media passwords. And if you think a phone number is only used as a means of communication, think again. Fraudsters can use your phone number in numerous ways without you knowing it. Take Johnny Richardson, an all-around fraudster.

Starting with a phone number, Johnny Richardson would transfer people’s cellphone account information to burner phones where he would set up two-factor authentication. He then used personal information obtained from the dark web to hack into his victims’ bank accounts that were accessible in the phone apps. Richardson would then empty victims’ bank accounts or take out loans in their names, routing the money through several bank accounts. He would also have banks send to the account owners checks from the victim’s accounts and then intercept the mailed checks before they were delivered to the unsuspecting victims’ homes. Richardson’s criminal enterprise netted over $300,000. On April 5, 2023, the court ordered that he must return these funds as restitution, and serve a prison sentence of three to twenty years.

But first he must complete his current prison term. Richardson is currently serving eight years for operating an unemployment fraud scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a scheme that stole almost $700,000 from the U.S. taxpayer, Richardson filed dozens of fraudulent unemployment claims in Michigan and four other states, using stolen identities. Richardson then provided information on these claims to Brandi Hawkins, a former contract employee for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency who helped expedite the claims.

Great job by the FBI and the Department of Labor on catching both of Richardson’s schemes.

Today’s Fraud Of The Day is based on an article “Identity Thief Sentenced, Pleads Guilty to Conducting Criminal Enterprise” published by Legal News on April 05, 2023

Johnny Richardson, 28, of Detroit, has been sentenced to 3-20 years for Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, the result of a joint investigation between the Department of Attorney General’s Financial Crimes Division and the U.S. Postal Service, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

Richardson’s enterprise operated by porting victims’ cellphone account information to “burner” cell phones. Then, using dark web identity information, he would hack into victims’ bank accounts and set up two-factor authentication with the burner cell phones. Richardson and other members of the conspiracy would then empty victims’ bank accounts or take out loans in their names, routing the money through several bank accounts. Often, they would have the banks send them checks from the victim’s bank accounts. Then they would intercept the mailed checks delivered to the unsuspecting victims’ homes.

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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.