“To begin, click on next.” That’s how users start their sessions with I.D. Theft Coach, an interactive guide offered by Department of the Interior Federal Credit Union ($146.8 M, Washington, D.C.) that offers instruction on how to safeguard sensitive records from identity fraud.
Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2013 Identity Fraud Report found identity fraud incidents increased by more than one million in 2012. According to the report, the 12.6 million incidents — which equates to approximately one incident every three seconds — represented nearly $21 billion in stolen funds, the largest amount since 2009.
To help combat the growing attacks on both financial and personal data, Interior FCU is raising awareness of common tactics employed by cyber criminals. ID Theft Coach, which is designed and produced by CUNA and hosted on the credit union’s Fraud and Security Resource Center page, provides financial education and advice on topics such as email, online purchases, in-person payments, and warning signs, and prompts user engagement with questions and answers along the way.
“It’s a pretty simple program,” says Marsha Moore, marketing coordinator at Interior FCU.
The credit union, which serves employees and volunteers of the Department of the Interior, has provided I.D. Theft Coach for the past three to four years in addition to other education programs with topics ranging from home and family information to information about auto and mortgage loans.
I.D. Theft Coach addresses questions such as “how do thieves use stolen identities?” and offers advice like “if your Social Security number is printed on your checks/share drafts, reorder checks without it. Also consider removing your driver’s license number.” The tool is thorough and covers many of the bases that any curious individual might ask. For Interior FCU, providing this information is part of its role as a financial institution.
“Besides having them just doing banking, one of our goals is to educate members,” Moore says. “[Education] is pretty high up there on our to-do list for our members.”
Can’t Put A Price On Education
The I.D. Theft Coach is a turnkey program, meaning the credit union does not need to provide any additions or edits to the online program. Although Moore did not disclose the cost of I.D. Theft Coach or other programs it purchases from CUNA, she did say costs were “not significant” and something the credit union was comfortable buying year in and year out provided they retained value.
“If it wasn’t utilized, that would be a waste of money,” Moore says.
In terms of usage, the credit union uses various metrics to track the success of the program including daily visitors, click-through rates, and forwards. As with any website, there are peaks and valleys to the amount of traffic it receives, but, Moore says, some of its benefits might not make a tangible impression on the data the credit union collects.
For example, Moore says, “[The tool] might sway somebody to say ‘okay, that information sounds good. I’m comfortable [with the credit union] so I’m going to apply for a car loan.’ You don’t know because it doesn’t say in our tracking that they clicked ‘here’ afterward.”
Although total loans have increased nearly 13%, from $89.1 million to $100.6 million from September 2010 to September 2013, the credit union can't pinpoint where the I.D. Theft Coach affects the balance sheet.
“We’re doing betting having it out there then not having it,” she says.
The Value Of A Coach
Interior FCU promotes the I.D. Theft Coachin its newsletter and members and non-members alike can find it organically through a search engine or by looking through the credit union’s website. Moore hopes the individuals who check out this information increase their understanding and awareness of identity theft — especially regarding Internet security or fraud — and use that knowledge to improve their financial decision making and personal security practices. The credit union is happy to provide the information, but it is up to the user to put it into practice.
“I hope they take away the information they were looking for,” Moore says. “I hope they are satisfied with what they found.”
Because the I.D. Theft Coach is not really a product — it’s information available to anyone who looks for it — the credit union considers it an outreach effort that encourages positive communication among users and potential credit union members. This information, Moore says, is indirect member service. It can attract potential members by building trust in the credit union.
“Hopefully they come to us when they make that decision on a home or a car,” she says. “It makes us look knowledgeable because we have that information.”
The credit union is satisfied with its I.D. Theft Coach and has no plans to switch vendors or discontinue the service. It considers the information too important for an electronically dependent world that is constantly attacked by hackers and pirates looking to steal sensitive information. While hackers continue to hack, Interior FCU will continue to coach.
“We want our website to be full of up-to-date information,” Moore says. “I think it’s essential to have those types of topics on the website. [Members] come to us. They feel safe that when they have questions they can go to our credit union website. We want to pull them to our website and be the first person they think of.”