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Written by Cyndie Martini
on November 02, 2016

Hackers are a very real threat to any consumer. They have the knowledge to infiltrate systems and steal information and money from complete strangers. Security professionals have the resources to keep hackers out, but these criminals are intelligent. When an update comes through, they are the first to begin studying the new features and finding ways circumvent them.

Other fraudsters take a different approach, PYMNTS pointed out. They adapt to the changing payments landscape rather than trying to break down newly built walls. For example, when the EMV mandate changed the way credit cards were processed in 2015, card-not-present fraud escalated.

It's this continual race that led George Zirkel, the head of global payments strategy at Transaction Network Services (TNS), to compare fraud prevention efforts to a marathon as opposed to a sprint. There is no time for credit unions to take a rest; security measures need to always be improving.

Ideally, there should be no weak points in a financial institution's cybersecurity strategy or fraud protection efforts. However, maintaining a proactive and defensive position against fraudsters can be challenging.

Keep members informed

One important duty credit unions have to theirmembers is to keep them informed on best practices for online security. Landmark Credit Union of Wisconsin and Illinois has done a nice job offering their members advice on how to keep their information and finances safe through an informational section on their website. Their tips include:

  • Don't provide sensitive information to anyone via email
  • Don't open attachments from strangers, and whenever possible, type a URL instead of clicking on a link in an email
  • Don't choose the "remember my password" option on websites, and try not to let websites store personal information

These types of educational resources are simple to set up and are widely helpful. Security measures taken at your credit union must be supplemented by intelligent decisions made by your members in their day-to-day lives to be most effective.

Get to know your unique structure

Security plans aren't a one-size-fits-all type of product. The most secure credit unions got that way because they put time and effort into learning about how best to keep their own unique members' information safe, according to Lending Solutions Consulting, Inc. The company reported that Ann Davidson, Credit Unions of North America Mutual Group's senior risk management consultant, and Carlton Howard, Coastal Federal Credit Union's vice president of risk management, gave credit unions some advice about staying secure amidst ever-changing technology.

"Just as no two credit union credit or debit card programs are alike, no two card fraud prevention programs are alike," Davidson explained. "But all programs share a few things in common, and making sure that everyone at the credit union understands the card program is a good first step."

Efforts to learn about the security best practices that will benefit your credit union the most should be taken by all credit union staff, not just the security professionals who work there. If everyone from the CEO to the tellers know what signs to look for that could indicate something is wrong, there will be a quicker response rate to an issue. Also, when everyone knows best practices, there's a smaller chance of a simple mistake triggering a data breach.

Don't write off "outdated" fraud types

Most news reports of fraud lately have been related to cards, online shopping and cybersecurity issues. But even some of the oldest forms of payments are susceptible to being taken advantage of by fraudsters.

For example, check usage has gone down considerably over the past decade. According to a 2013 study from the Federal Reserve, check payments dropped an average of 9.2 percent per year between 2009 and 2012. But that doesn't mean people aren't using checks—plenty of people still write them out. And that means fraudsters still target check-writers. A recent study from the Association for Financial Professionals found that check fraud was the most common form of payment scam in 2015.

As technologies change, it's important that credit unions keep their security measures up to date. Unfortunately, hackers are intelligent and adaptable people who know how to achieve their malicious goals. The best way to keep your members' information safe is to continuously improve your own security efforts and educate your members and staff about cybersecurity.

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