How do criminals learn advanced money laundering and fraud methods? This question has many answers, but in 2020 many criminals are buying this knowledge online. The information is contained in multiple files distributed through file sharing sites that are known to be havens for pirated material. The immense stress the world is experiencing due to the pandemic allows these criminals to operate more freely. Many boast on social media about their alleged gains, enticing others to purchase a copy for less than $100. These manuals are known as “fraud bibles” and have been circulated for years on the dark web, and in forums devoted to illicit activity.
The greatest threat to the AML industry and the financial system are the depositories of ID card and passport scans present in these fraud bibles. The scan’s purpose is to provide at least some identification to automated KYC platforms that have gained popularity with P2P lending services. The scans themselves are mostly of American citizen’s driver licenses, state ID cards, college ID’s, and other identifying information. Further, the presence of international passports and IDs shows that there is some international collaboration among the criminals. This scan section of the bible usually contains templates to make fake ID cards and passports, from every state and every country, including sanctioned countries such as Iran. It is possible to use the fake ID scans to create P2P accounts, commit numerous crimes in a person’s name, convert the proceeds into cryptocurrency and bounce the funds between wallets to mask the origin; this can allow the criminal to come out richer on the other side with no consequences.
Depending on the individual fraud bible and its quality, it can be a one-stop shop for criminal organizations to expand operations into less risk and labor-intensive activities. These activities include creating fake businesses to obtain Corona virus relief funds, forging car titles and registrations, selling counterfeit savings bonds, home title fraud, and other activities that can happen without drawing the attention of local authorities. Avoiding law enforcement while funding their operations from home’s relative safety is a major draw to criminals. A small organization principally focused on drug trafficking may be able to amass hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short period, and could invest the funds into weaponry, precursors, and production equipment to expand their drug operations.
Although being digitally distributed, fraud bibles provide a physical threat to the financial system and large retailers, employers, law enforcement, and communities. Many of the guides, include step-by-step instructions for creating both low-quality and high-quality counterfeit currency. The quality of the counterfeit bills corresponds to the purpose; the lower quality bills are intended for robbing others in quick exchanges, while the higher quality bills are designed for use in retail fraud.
Workplace threats are also supported by these bibles. They often include multiple fraudulent school transcripts and degree templates which are very difficult to detect as fake. The transcripts, when used in conjunction with stolen IDs and social security numbers, can allow unqualified and possible criminal elements to gain access to valuable trade secrets, client information and valuable equipment. . Many of the bibles are likely created with input from former or current employees - an element indicated by the way information about various systems and platforms is expressed, indicating an insider’s understanding of how they function.
Another threat from the bibles is that some editions are how-to guides for domestic terrorism such as the anarchist cookbook, or other books providing information on explosives, poisons, arms production, and guerilla warfare
Though the danger from fraud bibles is frightening, especially in a time of disorder, there are multiple avenues that can mitigate these threats. The first course of action is to create a repository that can auto-flag the usage of the ID cards found often in the bibles. Another is the AML community to reverse engineering the methods and schemes used by criminals to enhance current AML programs and make the use of fraud bibles riskier for criminals. The final course of action is to seek legal / law enforcement action to get the fraud bibles taken down under the pretense of a threat to national security.