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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – For Langley Federal Credit Union a proactive offense makes for the best defense against fraud and identity theft. The credit union’s identity theft program was even awarded second place in the national Louise Herring Credit Union Philosophy in Action competition. Sponsored by CUNA, the competition honors credit unions for their practical application of the “people-helping-people” philosophy. The program was designed to help members avoid becoming victims of Internet scams or other identity theft crimes and offers identity theft prevention tips, covers the importance of early detection and provides advice for consumers who do fall victim to identity theft. “Our approach is to educate members. Prevention is the most important part,” said Langley FCU Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer Brett T. Noll. “Beyond that if a member either thinks they are victim or is in fact a victim then we also want them to feel that they can come to the credit union, tell us what happened, and know that the staff is ready to respond and help make the whole situation go away for the member as soon as possible.” The award-winning program takes a multi-layered approach that incorporates training and communications. Serving as the central point of contact, the security department takes over once the initial information is gathered from the member. From that point on the department handles every aspect of the investigation from following up with law enforcement to keeping the member updated on the progress. “The nice thing about the program is that it is centralized and there are clear cut procedures in place,” said Noll. “For a long time we had bits and pieces in place to deal with identity theft and fraud, but in 2005 we worked hard to bring everything together to make the program more of a cohesive effort -mission accomplished.” Noll says just educating the staff was a major component of getting the program off the ground. With some 400 employees it was vital to have not only procedures to follow if a member is victimized, but also train staffers on being more aware from recognizing the latest scams and counterfeit checks to really listening to what members say. The program also includes staff incentives for spotting and stopping a scam. “We’ve had members come in saying they won the lottery in Australia, and because our staff was paying attention and realized that what was being said was strange we managed to foil lots of plots that would’ve ended up costing the member lots of money,” said Noll. In addition to internal efforts, education seminars are provided to the public twice a month on a variety of topics including identity theft and fraud. A “Shred Day” also proved successful as some 4,000 pounds of information was shredded in one day. To promote the event branch displays, newspaper ads and radio spots teased members with the chance to “Lose up to 60 pounds instantly.” “The response was terrific and we even got contacted by local television stations prior to the event so the day of it was covered by the press,” said Noll. Noll says the credit union does its best to focus its attention on all forms of communication-so newsletters have regular features on fraud; a section on the Web site covers the latest scams; and an anytime adviser on the Web site provides an interactive online module that talks up the perils of identity theft and what can be done to prevent it. Members are also provided 50-page booklets on taking charge and fighting back identity theft in every branch. The booklets are free from the Federal Trade Commission and Noll says they are in great demand. “I think the most important thing for any credit union to do is to be sure the staff is real clear on what to do if someone says they’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft,” said Noll. “Also if possible set up a central contact that can be your resident expert because these cases take time. For us, ongoing training is key. We have to reinforce it every day because new scams are always popping up.” To stay on top of the latest fraud attempts, Langley FCU has a Web contact committee consisting of representatives from a variety of departments and an IT staffer who can immediately post information. “It takes a team effort and we want to make sure our Stop Fraud section is continuously updated because there are always new things out there that our members need to be aware of,” said Noll. “We use all different communication vehicles to educate our members to help prevent them from becoming victims. Our basic feeling is the more we get the message out and the more variety in delivering that message the better our chances in reaching the public.” [email protected]

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