BECU’s Efforts to Combat Fraud Earn National Praise and Inaccurate Media Reports

When reports surfaced last month that a 21-year-old Dutch man had been charged with stealing more than 44,000 credit card numbers, many media outlets included BECU’s name prominently, reporting that some of the stolen numbers belonged to BECU members.

In Everett, Wash., for example, The Herald ran a headline that read, “Dutch man charged with stealing BECU credit cards.” Accurate? Yes, to an extent. But the report is also very much oversimplified.

According to John Snodgrass, BECU’s security risk manager, only a handful of the stolen card numbers were connected to BECU. But the credit union’s name showed up in the police report because of the credit union’s proactive, hands-on approach to identifying and preventing fraud and identity theft—a practice that has frequently left BECU’s name unfairly connected to fraud cases in instances when BECU has been part of the solution but bears no fault in the breach itself.

“We spend considerable time analyzing cases that come in, to the point where if we have at least two cases that come in with like charges, we start looking for a common point of compromise at that point,” Snodgrass said. “We kind of take the approach that if we can identify it up front, then we can identify the window of exposure, and once we know the window of exposure, we can have our monitoring system start to look for these kinds of frauds and catch them early as opposed to five, six, seven charges down the line.”

Snodgrass said that as a result of that proactive approach to mitigating and preventing fraud cases, the credit union spends a great deal of time working with law enforcement on a number of levels, including the Secret Service’s Electronic Crimes Task Force.

“Our relationships have built up to the point now with law enforcement that they will take our cases,” Snodgrass said. “They know that we’ve done our research, and they will investigate it, I would say, 99 percent of the time.”

BECU will then send the task force a list of victims and suspected breach points.

“As a result,” Snodgrass said, “we tend to be on the forefront of a lot of these things, which is why our name is listed so prominently in some of these case filings.”

Todd Pietszch, a spokesperson for BECU, said that media reports like the one in June are not uncommon.

“Very common,” Pietzsch said. “This isn’t the first time it’s happened. We’ve also had skimming cases, where John’s team has worked with law enforcement to actually get these guys on camera… and catch these guys. To find these skimming devices and shut them down. These skimming devices weren’t just on BECU machines; they were on other financial institutions’ devices as well. But because we’re the ones that are working with the law enforcement very closely, our name comes across in the police reports, which ultimately becomes public information.”

Snodgrass said that three “major skimmers” were recently put behind bars thanks in part to the efforts of BECU’s security team. So, while public perception may slant against the credit union at times, he said that BECU will continue its efforts to fight fraud for one simple reason: it benefits the member.


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Posted in Compliance News, Federal, NWCUA.