Credit Union Times: Searchable Smiles: Members 1st Deploys Next-Generation Surveillance

June 23, 2010 | Coverage

Credit Union Times

Published in Credit Union Times

How useful would it be to make the database of images gathered by the video cameras arrayed around the typical credit union branch searchable like Google?

That’s what Members 1st Federal Credit Union is finding out, as it moves ahead with its rollout of the 3VR SmartRecorder solution across its 43-branch network in central Pennsylvania. Using cameras hooked to black boxes that look like traditional video recorder systems, the 3VR solution can do such things as identify a photo of a person who deposited a bad check and quickly search for a match. Same thing with a license plate at an ATM. Or a partial license plate.

"What this lets us do is quickly search across our network to see if this particular person shows up anywhere else. And if they have, it can help us build a pretty complete case to hand over to law enforcement. One that will get their attention," said Chip McBreen, assistant vice president for fraud and security services at $1.8 billion Members 1st in Mechanicsburg.

McBreen cited one recent case of a bad check deposited at an ATM. Turns out the same face and license plate had done the same thing an hour earlier at another branch. Identification was made and the case was closed. The 3VR system also shut down a ring of several people using fake IDs to fraudulently apply for car loans.

"The bigger case you build, the more of a concern it is. Higher dollars get the attention of law enforcement a little quicker," McBreen said. "I can tell you from my own experience as a retired state policeman that you’re much quicker to take the case when the evidence is a slam dunk and there’s not a whole lot of shoe leather involved."

Along with cameras that deliver unusually crisp images, McBreen said, the 3VR solution also has alerting capabilities that Members 1st has put to good use. "We can set it to alert me or anyone I designate when a certain person comes into the branch. In this case, the camera recognized someone with a warrant out on them in a fraud case and we were able to stall the individual until law enforcement arrived and took him into custody."

The system’s functionalities don’t stop at facial recognition. Along with rolling it out to all the branches, McBreen’s team is in the process of integrating it with the credit union’s Symitar Episys core processing platform.

That will enable the credit union to match photos with such things as transaction type, amount, teller and other factors.

"Relevant video can be easily identified by this information, which is included on-screen with the actual footage. This capability will save investigators and fraud analysts enormous amounts of time by avoiding the need to pore through footage second-by-second searching for a specific transaction," the company said.

Steve Russell, founder and chairman of the Silicon Valley firm, said, "Some people call us a kind of Google in our field. We do use layer upon layer of computationally intensive analytics until what comes out on the other side is structured, organized, easy-to-use data. That is much more akin to what you see in a search engine than what you have in a traditional surveillance system."

Russell also claimed the system is so easy to use "a fourth-grader could do it, as one of our customers has told us." He compared its combination of ease of use and sophisticated technology to the TiVo recording system for television. "In fact, our head of engineering had that same role at TiVo," he said.

Russell said all this new technology is competitively priced with other video surveillance systems and said "the average loss in a single case we prevent or interdict can easily be as large as or greater than the cost of the 3VR system itself."

There’s also the deterrent effect. "One of our customers–Bank of Hawaii–did a big marketing campaign to let everyone know what they were doing," Russell said. "That was good, but you really may not have to. Word gets around fast through the criminal community and when they learn about the quality of evidence gathered against them, they don’t want to walk into a branch protected by 3VR."

The San Francisco-based company said it also has created a network of its own. Called CrimeDex, it brings together and shares images and other data collected from more than 700 financial institutions and retailers and law enforcement agencies.

McBreen said Members 1st is about halfway through installing the system at all of its 43 branches–a 44th is coming soon–and that it already has helped his four-person staff reduce fraud losses by as much as 90%.

"Fraud happens. We probably have as much as $8 million a year attempted against us. We keep very good stats on it and we’re very transparent about it with our senior management. You can’t stop it completely. But you can do things to mitigate it, and that’s what 3VR is really helping us do," he said.

—mrapport@cutimes.com

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