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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -In a fraud fight, offense is just as important as defense, says Riverside County’s Credit Union Security Officer/Investigator Kathy Roney. Setting aside maybe 10-15% of its security budget for resources, the $450-million credit union boasts a high prosecution and conviction rate on fraud attempts and a low near-zero percent on new account fraud. Part of RCCU’s proactive fraud efforts involves fingerprinting every new member when opening an account. According to Roney fingerprinting can ultimately help police track down criminals in identity theft cases. So that members aren’t offended or put off at the request, the credit union has trained staffers to position the fingerprinting as a positive. “We tell members they are giving the credit union and law enforcement agencies a tool or resource to help them fight identity theft,” said Roney. “The District Attorney in many counties here requires fingerprints to work a case. So it is a good motivator for us because the law will give priority to fraud cases that have a fingerprint on file. The member response has been overwhelmingly positive. We even have existing members who want to provide their fingerprint.” According to Roney while many credit unions rely on tools such as video, it is the equivalent of “a digital needle in a haystack.” “So let’s say you have the face of someone who fraudulently cashed a check – how do you find that person to prosecute,” said Roney. “The fingerprint is many times a `slam dunk’ for the DA’s office. Ninety percent of the people who commit these crimes are on the California database because they have done it before or if not we can still track them down through the Department of Motor Vehicles database.” In the first 14 months after Riverside County Federal Credit Union and Riverside County Schools Credit Union merged in 1999, RCCU’s new account fraud increased by 60%. According to Roney, the typical new account loss averaged $3,000, but now it is under $1,000. Roney says it is relatively simple to start the procedure and it does not require a formal policy or bylaw change. In addition to fingerprinting new members, RCCU has also implemented Primary Payment System’s anti-fraud software ID Chek that continuously scans account information looking for key factors that indicate fraudulent activity. It checks against known national databases, local banking databases and internal databases of previously used fraudulent phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers and employers. The two-team fraud investigators here then review the daily reports and act accordingly. Beyond fingerprinting and software, to really get a jump on fraud credit unions must network, says Roney. Since 1994 Roney has served on the board of the local Inland Empire Economic Crimes Investigators Association, which is open to all financial institutions. Association members come from diverse areas of law enforcement including the FBI, the post office and retail industry. The group meets once a month at RCCU and offers an educational component and a roundtable where participants discuss their latest cases. “The roundtable is the most popular part of the meeting because that is usually when we find out we may be sharing similar cases,” said Roney. “For example I might have a fraud case with one or two checks but during the roundtable discover that between three or four institutions we have a case of 60 to 100 checks, and that is a stronger case for law enforcement to pursue.” Recently the organization hosted a two-day training session at RCCU for six credit unions with experts covering such fraud topics as document validation from resident alien cards to driver’s licenses, and handwriting analysis. “We all share the same criminals especially in a localized area,” said Roney. “So while we may be competitive with financial institutions in other areas when it comes to fraud we have to be partners. I cannot stress enough that credit unions partner with law enforcement, other credit unions, banks, investigators, the postal office, etc. The bigger your network the easier your job will be fighting fraud.” [email protected]

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