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Security Spotlight: Tis the season for bank robberies and fraud, serial she-bandit on the run, and more!

Welcome to the December Issue of the Security Spotlight

Barry Thompson's Monthly Security Tip

Bank Robbery Season Has Arrived!

While everyone is familiar with the statistics governing what day, or time of day, that a financial institution is most likely to be robbed, what is overlooked is the time of year when the number of robberies increase. December is the month many bandits make their traditional holiday bank withdrawals. It's the most wonderful time of the year for financial institutions to review robbery training and robbery response procedures.

Most Wanted

Freedom fighter on the run...A serial bank robber dubbed the "Freedom Fighter Bandit" because she appears to be robbing banks for "a cause" – although no-one knows exactly what cause that is – has been identified as 25-year-old Nilsa Marie Urena. Urena not only traveled through the metro Atlanta area hitting banks, she recruited teenagers as accomplices in her heists. The crime spree began on October 30, when she attempted to rob a Wells Fargo branch in Stone Mountain, displaying a demand note on her cell phone. When the teller refused to give her money, she left that bank and went to the Associated Credit Union in Ellenwood, where she did get money after claiming she had an explosive device. On November 3, Urena and an unidentified male pulled another heist with the threat of an explosive device at a Bank of Ozarks in Douglasville. The same day, Urena and 17-year-old Devon Morris walked into the Georgia's Own Credit Union in Loganville and gave the teller a note that demanded money and stated Urena had a bomb. When they received the money, the two suspects got into a waiting SUV being driven by a 16-year-old suspect (name withheld because he's a minor). Both young men have been arrested and are in custody. Morris has an active warrant for one count of robbery and the minor accomplice has been charged with robbery on a juvenile complaint form. Telling his story to a reporter, the minor recounted that "In the first bank, I went in (and) she told me to give the people the note. I was scared to give the people the note 'cause I didn’t want to do it. So I ended not giving them folks the note."

Urena remains at large and may or may not have a grander plan in place. She posted anti-government and anti-Trump messages referencing Hitler on her Facebook page, and posted that "history lied. It’s about to happen." She is believed to be from Panama but has strong ties to Philadelphia. Urena is described as a black female, late 20s to mid-30s in age, approximately 5’7” in height, slender build, long black hair. Anyone with information that might help the authorities locate her should contact GCPD detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit There is a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case. The FBI said there is every reason to believe the Freedom Fighter Bandit will strike again. They are hoping to take away her freedom and put her behind bars before that happens.

Check our Bank Robbery page for photos and information on the latest unknown bank bandits, many of them with sunglasses, hats or other head and facial coverings disguising their identity. Enforcing a no hats, hoods and sunglasses policy can help reduce the number of bandits who target your bank. Purchase No Hat Cling signs for all of your branches from the Banker Store.

Hot Topics from the Bankers Forums

Two security topics discussed last month in the public forum included one on the contents of the required annual security report and one on counterfeits. The Public Security forum is for non-sensitive topics. You'll find more security-related discussions covering sensitive topics in our "Private Security Forum," where bankers discuss issues out of public view. There's also a private forum that invites participation by bankers, regulators and members of law enforcement.

There were discussions in the Private forums on in-house cash transit, mutilated currency, the two-weeks-away internal controls discussion, robbery at a drive-thru, and tenant space issues. If you have a sensitive question you'd like to get input on, post it now in one of the private forums. If you're a registered user of BOL's Discussion Forums, but don't see the Private - Financial Institution Personnel Only forums near the top of the Forums list, use your bank email address to send an access request to Once your request is approved, you can access the Private Security forum here.

CrimeDex Alerts

Don't expect any break from fraud for the holidays
If this year's holiday season is anything like those of the past, don't expect scammers, fraudsters, robbers, thieves and other ne'er-do-wells to take time off from their usual nefarious pursuits as we approach the year-end holiday season. Even in November, with only 30 days and the big Thanksgiving holiday, we saw nearly 500 BOL CrimeDex alerts land in our inbox (CrimeDex subscribers can filter the alerts they receive to keep them relevant and manageable). Here's a sampling of the November alerts we read:

  • Phony email triggers ACH transfer. A Georgia bank sought others who are investigating phony emails used to request transfers of funds. In this case, a business customer transferred $15,000 based on a fabricated email. When the funds were credited to a new account in Oklahoma, you can guess what happened: The account was cleaned out before anyone knew what had happened. Is your bank alerting its business customers about scams like this one?
  • Business email compromises. Speaking of fraudulent funds transfers, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service asked subscribing banks to look for accounts in any of the names on a list of suspects in ID theft and business email compromises. Email compromise is a great topic to use in discussions with your business customers who use email in their financial business transactions.
  • Stolen debit card. A California bank posted surveillance photos and requested ID info on suspects who were using a stolen debit card and PIN to complete multiple ATM and POS transactions in the Los Angeles area. Are there photos of suspects involved in ripping off your customers (and your bank) using stolen cards? You could be using CrimeDex as a tool to help ID the thieves.
  • Money laundering. Fairfax County (VA) police asked subscribing banks to look for accounts and safe deposit boxes in the name of a restaurant or either of two individuals suspected of money laundering, with the promise of proper legal process to follow any affirmative responses.
  • Counterfeit cashier's checks. The LBS Financial Credit Union (Long Beach, CA) posted an alert on an increase in the number of counterfeit cashier's checks purportedly drawn on the credit union. The alert included details on how to identify the bogus checks and contact info to use if a counterfeit of the CU's checks is suspected. CrimeDex is another way you can post alerts if your bank's (or your customer's) checks are being counterfeited.
  • ATM card skimmers were the topic of an alert from Parkersburg, WV, police, who had discovered a device on an outdoor ATM at a gas station. The alert included photos of the skimming device and two individuals suspected to have placed it. Don't miss an opportunity to alert your cardholders (and customers who have ATMs, card-activated fuel pumps, or POS terminals) to the possibility of card skimmers and counterfeit card fraud.
  • Grandparent scam. A Pennsylvania police detective asked for help identifying individuals suspected in a "grandparent scam." A 79-year-old individual received a phone call from someone claiming to be a detective with a police department in North Carolina that was holding the victim's grandson, who needed $4,500 for bail. The victim bought Target gift cards, and read the card number to the phony detective. When the victim learned he had been scammed, police traced the gift cards and found that two suspects used the cards for purchases at a Target in Houston, TX, where surveillance cameras provided images for the alert. How many seniors do you know who could fall for a similar scam? How many would think to verify a grandchild's "situation" before complying with a scammers instructions?

BOL CrimeDex subscribers use their subscriptions to identify suspects in surveillance images, gather information they can use in prosecuting thieves and scammers, and learn about criminals and scams in their area. They also pick up information they can use in their security training sessions. If you have access to our private forums, read the "CrimeDex Service FREE" notice in the second thread of the "Private - FI Personnel Only" forum.

Facebook Blog

Throughout the month, we share news-related incidents on Facebook that can be informative examples for training employees on security issues and more. In November, the headlines were full of stories on bank robberies, counterfeit cash, embezzlement, and more! Visit our BOL Facebook page to catch up on all the latest news. We've shared a few of the highlights from last month:

  • The first post of the month on November 1 is a series of links related to counterfeiting. We received ten stories about counterfeiting affecting the banking industry in one day alone.
  • Several articles were posted about bank robbers who ended up in jail, the first one shared on November 2 was about a female bandit with no priors who has repaid the bank.
  • There is a meaty story about a bank embezzlement we shared on November 3, with a news video that contains some good details on the theft and the cover-up. And on November 6, check out the post that has some interesting facts and figures on embezzlement you can use when preparing your annual security report.
  • Bank robbers come in all ages! Read about a 78-year-old man who robbed a bank in our November 9 post, then scroll down to the November 22 story we shared about an 86-year-old woman, using a walker, who committed armed robbery?
  • A tragic story we shared on November 13 involving an injured customer and the fatal shooting of the suspect is a stark reminder of the importance of staff training.
  • Our November 14 post shows how GPS trackers can assist the police in tracking suspects, even if they are discovered and discarded by the thieves.
  • In a disturbing incident, a bank teller's life was in jeopardy when she was doused with gasoline and the suspect threatened to light her on fire. The details and a video are posted on November 16 and 19 respectively.
  • We ended November with two stories – one about a robber who was sentenced to 18 years after he shot a customer who tried to stop the robbery, and another involving a perp who will serve 20 years for a robbery during which he took bank customers and staff hostage.

Visit our BOL Facebook page to catch up on more posts from last month and all the latest news. Be sure to "Like" the articles so we can continue to post more articles of interest to you, and share our page with your fellow Security Officers and bankers, and ask them to "Like" us so they, too, can keep current on the latest news!

First published on 12/05/2017

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