WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Credit unions are taking off the gloves to fight fraud in all its forms. For the past 26 years, San Antonio Federal Credit Union Internal Audit Senior Vice President James Peters and his team of 10 have battled fraud by keeping staffers updated and educated. Peters says that although account takeovers are more common at his credit union than identity theft, constant education and communication are vital to identifying and preventing all 12 types of fraud. He makes a point to visit each branch every three months to train staffers on the characteristics of one or two specific fraud types. “We tell everyone that if they suspect suspicious activity to report it to our department even if it is only a gut feeling or intuition and we’ll investigate,” said Peters. “We even have an ongoing monetary reward program in place if the information leads to a true fraud case.” In addition to constant training, SACU has also teamed up with local law enforcement and other financial institutions in the area to form a “network” of information sharing. New or novel scams are provided to employees via two-page security alerts. One educational seminar on identity theft proved to be quite an eye opener for Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union. “We had more attendees than we had planned for,” said HVFCU Director of Marketing Paul Stull. “We didn’t plan on getting into the ID theft education business and really thought interest would wane but it hasn’t and is of great interest to our members and the public in general.” The Poughkeepsie, New York-based credit union held its first session in September and to date well over a dozen seminars have been held for over 600 consumers. Two community relations coordinators oversee the seminars and they have added a special ID theft education section to the HVFCU Web site. In addition, HVFCU has teamed up with local police to participate in the seminars. “My own feeling is that we’ve got to do more than just post notices and brochures on the subject; we try to make sure members and the public get as much value out of these seminars as possible,” said Stull. “It is a proactive approach to protecting our members from becoming victims.” At the end of each session HVFCU collects member surveys, and Stull says the best comments have been that when members want reliable information they turn to the credit union. HVFCU has also expanded its seminars to target senior citizens since financial abuse of the elderly is on the rise. After each seminar the credit union donates a paper shredder to be used in the community room. So far 16 shredders have been handed out. “It really is a win-win situation. Our members become more knowledgeable about identity theft and we are building relationships in the community by doing good. Compared to what it would cost to pay for an ad, we are getting big returns at a really low cost. At Alaska USA Federal Credit Union member privacy has always been a top priority. “We are like the CIA in terms of classified bins filled with information to be shredded,” said Alaska USA FCU Senior Vice President Corporate Development Nancy Bear Usera. The credit union has shredders available at every branch and on every floor of its headquarters. Each staffer has two wastebaskets – one for confidential-to-be-shredded documentation and the other for regular trash. Shredded documents are then taken to recycling bins and Usera says annually some tens of thousands of the credit union’s shreddings are sent to recycling centers. According to Usera, one of the major initiatives launched this year was to install new secure entry systems. “Information regarding member accounts is under strictly restricted access -only those employees with immediate need to be privy to such information have badges to access those areas,” said Usera. “It was a tremendous effort and expense because we have some 37 branches and administrative offices but with the increase of fraud and identity theft we felt it was just the right thing to do.” [email protected]

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