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Fighting Fraud Starts with Educating, Enlisting, and Engaging Your Members

Man with phone and credit card looking confused

Fraud—or the opportunity for fraud—is pretty much everywhere. In our increasingly online world, virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives is vulnerable. In 2022, U.S. consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to some kind of fraud, and credit union fraud rates increased by more than 70 percent.

In a perfect fraud protection scenario, safeguarding members would be a problem your credit union could solve with a just-right mix of process and technology. But two things stand in the way of that “easy” fix: scammers’ 24/7/365 dedication to creating new and better ways to defraud (do they ever sleep?) and the reality that members can unknowingly thwart all your hard fraud protection work.

We’ll leave it to the IT experts to weigh in on the ever-changing best practices for digital security. But the fight against fraud should be a much broader effort. Your frontline staff and marketing team can work together with your fraud managers and IT staff to not only understand your credit union’s fraud protection efforts and keep up to date with the latest scams, but also to educate, enlist, and engage your members.

`You might be wondering, how much should you even be talking about fraud with your members? Might it be counterproductive to point out that their hard-earned cash is vulnerable? Do you really want members lying awake at night worrying whether their money is safe, particularly when it’s your credit union they are trusting to protect it?

These are all valid questions, and you’ll certainly want to approach your messaging carefully. But speaking up is far better than saying nothing. By pointing out how pervasive fraud is, the safeguards your credit union is taking, and the role members can play in protecting themselves, you’ll decrease their risk and show them that your credit union has their back. Plus, given the prevalence of fraud and fraudsters’ ever-changing playbook of methods and tools, fraud education messages provide an ongoing opportunity to engage with your members.

Here are some important considerations as you examine and evolve your approach:

1. Tone: Fraud is a serious subject and does not deserve to be taken lightly. On the other hand, it has the potential to be severely anxiety-provoking, and an alarmist tone could result in negative associations with your credit union. We love how VSECU positions its efforts as empowering members to take control of their safety. Keesler Federal Credit Union takes a “we’re in this together” approach that nicely complements the “people helping people” credit union philosophy.

2. General information and guidelines: The fraud landscape is changing rapidly, but in addition to new scams and schemes, your fraud education efforts should include a high-level overview of the ways your credit union protects your members and general guidelines for common-sense ways members can protect themselves, regardless of the specific scam. Stick with jargon-free language that’s easy to understand and doesn’t bog members down with tech-y details that could leave them feeling anxious rather than relieved. VSECU does a particularly good job of this.>

3. Timely updates: Scammers are constantly refining their efforts, and it’s important your credit union do the same. Use your blog, social media and email channels to get the word out on the latest scams and give members a heads-up when they might be especially vulnerable. Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union pointed out that Black Friday isn’t just a day for great holiday bargains—it’s become a big payday for way too many con artists. And this helpful article from Lafayette Federal Credit Union, which was released during tax season, gives members seven ways to avoid being victims of identity theft tax fraud.

Make the most of these common website elements to draw members’ attention to the latest fraud-related news.

  • Alert bar: Use this for short, 1-2 sentence announcements that will appear on every page of your website.
  • Blogs and news posts: Have an announcement that needs a longer explanation? Include a link in your alert bar to additional content.
  • Member login dropdown: While our clients typically use these for product promos, if you’ve got a critical anti-fraud message to share, this location is perfect because every member who comes to your site will see it.
  • Homepage hero: We configure some of our client homepages to serve up different content for members — i.e. returning visitors who have previously logged into online banking. While you probably wouldn’t want to lead with fraud-related news on the prospect-facing version of your homepage, the hero is a great spot for catching your members’ attention before they leave to visit online banking.
  • FAQs: Add the fraud-related questions members care about most and include them in relevant pages across the website.

4. Prominent one-stop hub: If you haven’t looked at the fraud page on your website for a while, or if you don’t yet have one, now is the time to revisit or create it. A one-stop hub that includes your more evergreen content and also pulls in more timely blog posts, alerts, workshops, and FAQs will build member confidence in your security efforts and provide a fast and easy way for them to report problems and learn the latest. Your fraud page should also include clear and prominent calls to action for members who worry they might be victims of fraud or identity theft. This is one way to show up for a member in need and show them you have their back.

If you already have a fraud page on your website, but it’s buried in the navigation and gathering dust, you might want to consider ways to keep it more regularly updated and link it from relevant pages and/or posts.

5. Ongoing education. Borrow a page from fraudsters—who seem to find opportunities for fraud virtually everywhere—by embedding contextually relevant fraud tips into a wide variety of product and services web pages. Credit cards, payment options (like Zelle or Venmo), debit cards and loans are all ripe for fraud and good places to share information about how members can best protect themselves. Peninsula Credit Union includes “Quick Tips” throughout its website — a great way to disseminate important fraud-related information.

Did you know fraud education can even be fun? We didn’t either, until we came across this fraud identification quiz from The Washington Post. What interactive ways can you educate your members about fraud?

6. Member involvement.Encourage members to play an active role in identifying and sharing examples of fraud. Ask them to take screenshots of suspicious text messages, emails or other communications and share them (with the members’ permission and thoughtful redacting) on your digital channels. Members will hone their fraud detection skills—and feel more invested in working with your credit union to avoid it. Plus, you never know when a member might uncover something you weren’t aware of.

7. Member stories: If you worked with a member who was a victim of fraud or identity theft and were able to get them back on track, ask if they would be willing to share their story. Not only are stories like these instructive for other members but they can help alleviate anxiety by showing that you have their back. The aforementioned Peninsula Credit Union includes a “Wow Story” on its fraud page from a member who raves about the credit union’s “kindness and best support anyone could ask for” after she had her identity stolen.

The bad news is, fraud is not only here to stay, but it appears to be growing. The good news is, your credit union can play a direct role in stemming its worst effects. With an ongoing commitment to educating, enlisting, and engaging your members, you’ll create an effective front line of defense that can help keep the phishing and smishing at bay.


This article originally appeared in CUInsight.

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