A career criminal has made out with more than $125,000 from Utah credit unions so far. He's still on the loose and will likely increase his total take. For the last eight months, William Branstiter has cashed more than $125,000 in fake checks at credit unions spanning the length of the I-15 corridor in Utah.
Police believe Branstiter is buying identifying information such as date of birth, Social Security, and bank account numbers from the dark web. He's used this information to create over 50 counterfeit checks, which have all slipped past tellers.
While 2020 saw increased phishing and hack attacks because of all the online activity due to COVID-19, Branstiter has managed to continue utilizing COVID-19 protocols and some nifty social engineering to his benefit. Rather than going into a bank, he uses the drive-thru. He wears a COVID mask, which helps disguise him. He also places a COVID mask over his license plate.
While a car might seem like a potential identifying mark, Branstiter seems to have that area covered as well. He switches out cars regularly. Sometimes they are rentals and sometimes they are from unknowing family and friends. He also changes hotels every 2-3 days. While there is nothing complex about what Branstiter is doing, he manages to stay one step ahead of the police.
Branstiter dresses nicely, sometimes even wearing a tie and sunglasses. He blends in very well and is unassuming. This is not your traditional social engineering, which is usually done verbally by convincing someone you are someone you aren't. Branstiter is able to convince people by just looking like an everyday person. No talking necessary.
Branstiter's criminal activities go to show that even in the age of COVID and increased online hi-tech criminal activity, low tech can still be just as devastating.