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Banks using modern technology to prevent ID theft, fraud

Most people appreciate being recognized by the teller at the bank when doing banking business. But with modern technology, a customer can be recognized even when going for the first time to a branch far from home.

BankPlus, for example, has a program called BankCars started in early 2007 that involves scanning the driver’s license of customers to make sure about their identity. After the driver’s license or other picture ID is scanned, it automatically comes up on the teller’s computer screen when a customer comes in to do business. This not only helps prevent fraud, it also reduces the time people have to wait in line.

Caroll Stutts, director of training and senior vice president, BankPlus, Jackson, said the program helps protect the privacy of customers while also preventing fraud.

“When a customer visits one of our branches, BankCars provides our employees with the security of knowing that person standing in front of them is truly that customer because the photo image pops up when conducting a transaction,” Stutts said. “Because the customer’s picture is displayed when they transact business, it provides them with the freedom of secure banking at home in Jackson or away in Shubuta with less fear that their information or account will be compromised.

“BankCars has helped our bank assure customers that we are doing everything possible to protect them. This gives us the opportunity to catch fraud on the front end. Once you have entrusted your money to us, we want to honor that trust by making sure you are well protected.”

It saves the bank time and money by making the entire identification process flow smoother as well as more efficiently. The bank has had some long-time customers become a bit temperamental when asked for their identification.

“However, when we gently explain the reasoning behind our request and let them know that we are serious about protecting their assets, they gladly comply and appreciate our efforts,” Stutts said. “We firmly believe that when we provide instant photo identification to our staff, we greatly tighten the criminal loophole.”

She said BankCars has given the bank the ability to better manage possible fraud on its frontlines. When the photo ID does not match, the customer’s account has been protected and the bank may even have an opportunity to contact the proper authorities while the act is in progress.

New customers are asked for two forms of picture ID when they open an account. With the existing customer base, frontline team members verify the database to confirm that they have the most current ID on file when assisting a customer. If the photo ID is expired, customers are asked to produce an unexpired ID.

“We want to make sure we have the most current ID on file,” Stutts said.

Programs such as BankCars are becoming the industry standard. Many different companies offer similar services and these services go far beyond assuring the proper identity of customers.

“When a person opens an account, the program automatically checks items such as government lists of known terrorists and possible fraud alerts,” Stutts said. “It double checks address information, telephone numbers and the correlation between the customer’s date of birth and Social Security number.”

If anything doesn’t match up — for example, the Social Security number issuance doesn’t match the date of birth or the address has been used previously for fraudulent activities — then the bank knows there is a discrepancy and further investigation is warranted.

There are quite a few people without a driver’s license or a state-issued ID. In those situations, other acceptable forms of ID are allowed such as a reputable local company’s employee ID or a student ID.

“In the Jackson area, we have branches in Clinton and one practically on the Jackson State University campus,” Stutts said. “For those locations very close to a school, we accept student IDs. Because we are dedicated to helping every customer, we also have special provisions for the elderly and disabled who may possess a picture ID. When this is the case, we work with the customer and request appropriate secondary identification such as utility bills, Medicaid or Medicare cards, Social Security cards, tax returns, etc.”

Sometimes the bank is presented with unacceptable IDs such as club cards and hunting licenses. But overall the intention is to work with each customer from every angle and secure ID that will allow the bank employees to ensure they are assisting the proper person so as to protect funds that have been entrusted to the bank.

Another important bank security issue involves Internet banking.

John Oxford, director of external affairs, Renasant Bank, Tupelo, said someone with access to a person’s banking information can do even more harm than someone who steals a check and tries to cash it.

“Internet security can be an even bigger issue that impersonating a client because you have more to lose,” Oxford said. “Access to online banking provides much greater information on a person. Not only can they steal funds, they can also take personal information and do things illegally with that information like taking out loans or making credit card applications. That is why Internet security is very, very important. You aren’t just cashing a check.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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