27 Jul 2020
By the time Dartanyon Williams was 15-years-old, he was already an identity thief. At 19, he had begun to recruit accomplices twice his age to help build a criminal enterprise that ultimately netted him $3.1 million before his eventual arrest.
What had begun as rudimentary payment card fraud using his father’s credentials soon turned into a complex scheme involving dozens of operatives who were paid $2,000 per week to retrieve personal data from banks, car dealerships, tax preparation companies, convenience stores and other businesses. Williams ultimately laundered the proceeds of his scheme through front companies he founded that handled significant quantities of cash and credit card transactions.
What made it all possible, Williams said during a recent episode of KYC360’s AML Talk Show, was America’s instant credit market.
“It is what makes identity theft so lucrative, and it is in fact the driving force behind identity theft that has made it the fastest growing crime in America,” he said. “It is the instant credit market, and we understand and appreciate that the instant credit market appeals to the sentiment or desire for instant gratification that’s part and parcel to human nature.”
Williams’ rapid success eventually caught the eye of investigators from the FBI and U.S. Secret Service, leading to his conviction at the age of 23 for conspiracy to commit identity theft. The experience lead to, not only his recruitment to train federal agents on how identity theft and payment card fraud scams are perpetrated, but also his post-penitentiary launch of a consultancy that trains private-sector businesses on how to identify and prevent such crimes.
A bestselling memoir on his criminal exploits, entitled The Master Identity Thief: Testimony and Solutions of an Expert Witness, was published in May.
In the years since his incarceration, public awareness of identity theft has grown without the problem diminishing.
“Consumer data is much more accessible than the average consumer thinks or realizes,” said Williams.
“Initially, franchise hotel chains would have these receipts of check-outs, of registration receipts from when a patron would patronize their establishment, and they would have them all boxed, these carbon copy copies, of these transactions,” he said. “I would just access that initially, and build credentials and identities off of that information. I had four copies, carbon copies, photo copies of driver’s licenses, front and back, credit cards, front and back, and all the credentials that were needed in that instance to perpetrate or steal, to assume the identity of that particular victim.”
Similar scams are expected to balloon in the near term as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its consequent economic downturn, he believes.
One such scheme that is currently “scaling at a very alarming rate” is childhood identity theft, which involves the exploitation of the Social Security number of a child to defraud the credit market, according to Williams.
Economic turmoil, in other words, leads to criminal opportunities.
“Fraud always peaks in a moment of crisis.”
Listen to the full podcast here
RiskScreen: Eliminating Financial Crime with Smart Technology
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