ID Theft & Fraud is Spreading as Fast as COVID-19, What Can CUs Do?

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Over the past nine months, our country has experienced an unprecedented pandemic that featured a transmittable virus that spread "like wildfire" to millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the world's criminals have preyed upon this fast-spreading viral disease to create the spread of criminal activity that has moved as swiftly as the virus itself.

With October being National Cybersecurity Month, it is disheartening to say that Americans, including thousands of your members, face the worst ever epidemic of ID theft & fraud. It is a tidal wave of criminal attacks hitting your members from so many directions, which makes them defenseless if they are in the sights of the bad guys.

We've seen the warnings for all of these attacks coming from so many sources. The FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and other national watchdogs have been trying to expose the criminals and their many forms of assault on innocent individuals.

In March, we saw the first signs of attack coming via the Phishing email avalanche that hit Americans with 600% increase in just one month.

Then in April, we were all alerted to the several devious ways that crooks were creating Stimulus Check Scams against Americans (including your members) who were desperately in need of the funds to stay afloat.

There was a critical alert announced in May from several Federal Agencies that the coronavirus pandemic was helping to facilitate "malicious attempts leveraging stimulus-themed emails and text messages to obtain personally identifiable information and bank account details from individuals." The IRS, Homeland Security, and Secret Service, among others, are particularly concerned about the intrusions happening within healthcare organizations and are encouraging heightened controls, especially on teleworkers operating in unsecured places.

In May, the Institute on Aging also released a warning about criminals aggressively targeting the elderly. Elders, who maintain the vast majority of the nations' wealth and face more isolation from being the pandemic's highest risks, have become an appealing prey for cybercriminals. Elder members need some focused attention at this time and it would benefit credit unions to show them some special support.

A Beazley study released in June also indicated that businesses are also highly targeted by sophisticated thieves. Phishing scams and the confusion of the virus have made it an excellent opportunity to drive up ransomware attacks on a wide variety of industries. Credit union members are also affected, as many of them are consumers, employees, and owners of these vulnerable businesses.

Perhaps one of the most alarming warnings came in June by the FBI, when they announced that there had been significant attacks on mobile banking apps and fake banking apps developed by criminals. COVID-19 has caused more people (your members) to bank remotely and has increased mobile banking usage. According to the FBI, "Hackers are increasingly aiming at mobile banking app users to steal credentials and commander bank accounts."

In light of this mountain of evidence that credit union members are facing unprecedented levels of risk for ID theft and fraud events, the question becomes, "What will credit unions do to help them?" The answer starts with an awareness campaign that educates members about what is happening around them with cyberhacking, phishing emails, stimulus scams, and various fraud attacks. Now is the time to create an "eyes wide open" moment for members to be on guard and ready to defend themselves.

Of course, credit unions can go the extra mile for members, which is what credit unions are known for, and incorporate protective ID theft and fraud services as part of their member-owned accounts. Hundreds of credit unions nationwide have begun to provide their members with this "ultimate safety net of protection." Programs are readily available to make this happen while also providing the opportunity to generate much-needed non-interest income to offset growing fraud loss, pandemic-related revenue gaps, and secure funding to maximize institutional protection as well.

All of this being said….wouldn’t NOW be a good time to give members a positive solution to fight this spreading crime wave? Where else would you want your members to go than the credit union they trust?

Article by Jim McCabe, Senior Vice President, Identity Theft Solutions, Vero.