By Mason Edwards
Bill Beecken (C’70) encouraged Sewanee students to “trust no one who touches your money” during a recent visit to Sewanee’s campus, sharing his expertise as an investigator of fraud with students eager to start their own foray into the world of finance.
Beecken graduated from Sewanee with a degree in economics. While reading an article about a large fraud bust during his time at Virginia Tech, he was inspired to go into investigative work. Shortly after, he began working with at the SEC, taking on high-level fraud cases. He currently works in a certified public accountant (CPA) firm specializing in fraud examination and investigation. He also teaches CPA courses at several colleges in the Atlanta area.
This talk was part of a larger group of discussions sponsored by the Babson Center of Global Commerce, who this past year has brought in speakers to discuss finances, leadership, and other important issues in the business world. The presentation described the motivations behind fraud, a profile of a fraudster, and “red flags” of a scam. To illustrate his points, Beecken referenced bizarre and shocking cases of fraud that he encountered in his profession.
One of the listeners chimed in. “There were a whole lot of different crazy cases, like the Mark Miller Case,” said Michael Rudolph (C’19), a philosophy major. Mark Miller served as director of operations for Vanguard Healthcare, a nursing home facility which provided substandard care to residents while submitting false claims to TennCare and Medicare for funds.
Though the discussion drew a crowd interested in finance, the presentation was easily understood while also being wildly entertaining. Economics major Drew Mancuso (C’18) remarked, “I thought it was good. I thought he talked a lot about a lot of different cases and brought economics and psychology together.”
Once the talk ended, the audience was left with a new perspective on financial responsibility. “There’s a lot of paranoia in his argument, which is pretty healthy, and I think I’ll take some of that into the real world,” said Rudolph.
Most of the student audience consisted of seniors looking for helpful wisdom before they enter the real world. But for those that did not attend, Beecken still has some advice for all graduating seniors and young people in three words: “Trust, but verify.” Referencing Ronald Reagan, he advises a healthy amount of skepticism towards important issues, such as money.
For students, fraud is becoming a greater problem in daily life, especially with the advent of technology. After the lecture, Beecken stressed the prevalence of technology in fraud: “You got to understand your technology. You got to have the software, the protection. The big thing now is crack, which is a thing that gets into your Wi-Fi, and from there your cell phone, laptop… Investing in software to protect you from that stuff is really important.”
Though Beecken believes that the fraud market is getting much larger, students received excellent insight in fraud prevention to protect themselves and their finances as they enter the working world.