More credit unions around the country are having at least their senior security officers obtain certification as recognized financial crime investigators as they attempt to both counter existing crime threats and prevent future criminal activity.
Certification as certified financial crimes investigators comes from the International Association of Financial Crime Investigators and certified investigators include law enforcement and government officials along with executives of banks, insurance companies and, increasingly, credit unions, according to Thomas Nash CFCI, senior risk management analyst with the 100,000 member, $1.4 billion American Eagle Federal Credit Union and a trainer for the association.
Nash didn’t know exactly how many credit unions have taken the step of helping one or two members of their staff obtain CFCI recognition but said the association has seen larger numbers of credit union executives take the step as their institutions become more aware of significant fraud and other crime threats.
Certification requires becoming an association member and completing a guided course of self study that culminates in a two-and-a-half hour exam. The whole certification process, including the examination, costs less than $1,000 and, Nash explained, proves itself invaluable to a credit union which is seeking to dissuade criminals.
“Certification does two invaluable things,” Nash said. “It provides a crime prevention professional with a systematic body of knowledge about existing fraud threats and prevention techniques as well as a source of information about new fraud developments,” Nash said. “It also provides access to a network of experienced crime prevention professionals from around the world who stand ready to help a credit union understand and counter a fraud threat they have begun to experience.”
This networking aspect has become especially valuable as major crime trends have become more international in scope, Nash explained. For example, skimming at ATMs started in Europe but has fallen off sharply there as more European nations moved to cards containing computer chips. Once skimming began to be seen much more frequently in the U.S. and Australia, two places that have not yet implemented the chip cards, having CFCI certified staff enabled the East Hartford, Conn., credit union to get an advanced warning about the increased skimming as well as a faster source of information on what to do to counter the threat.
Cathy Forier, supervisor of corporate security at the 70,000-member, $731 million Charter Oak Federal Credit Union was the latest credit union executive to obtain the certification and described the process as significantly expanding her knowledge about financial crime and financial crime fighting.
“I learned many things that I hadn’t known before,” she reported, adding that she had taken the self-study course seriously, putting in several hours of study every night for 90 days before taking the exam. “I learned about the different kinds of fraud than I had been familiar with before,” she added, “how to recognize them and what to do about them.”
She also learned about the evolution of fraud investigation and prevention and how the current approaches developed to counter each new threat, she added.
The networking aspect came to her swiftly after she passed the exam and received congratulatory email from all over the world. “I got well wishes from all over,” she said, “people I had never heard of who lived in places I have never been sent me congratulations.”
She added that she already put the networking aspect of the certification into good use, explaining that the credit union had received an odd request to replace a credit card in Canada. “I was able to contact a CFCI contact in Canada and ask that they check it out for us,” she said.
Obtaining certification does not necessarily mean that a credit union with IFCI staff will necessarily pay less for insurance from CUNA Mutual, at least not until more credit unions take the step of having staff obtain certification.
“CUNA Mutual Group fully supports credit union employees pursuing this designation to increase their knowledge and acumen related to uncovering financial crimes,” explained CUNA Mutual spokesman Phil Tschudy. “However, we wouldn’t be in a position to offer a premium discount since, at this point, there are very few credit union employees holding a designation like this. From an actuarial perspective, there would be very little credibility to either prove or disprove that obtaining such designation would reduce bond losses.”