A few hours after the New York market close on Feb. 1, an obscure Chicago artist by the name of Antonio Lee told the world he had become the world's richest man.

The 32-year-old painter said Google's parent, Alphabet Inc., had bought his art company in exchange for a chunk of stock that made him wealthier than Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos — combined.

Of course, none of it was true. Yet, on that day, Lee managed to issue his fabricated report in the most authoritative of places: The Securities and Exchange Commission's Edgar database, the foundation of hundreds of billions of dollars in financial transactions each day.

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