PITTSFIELD, Mass. (4/16/09)--While news of the huge number of records compromised last year by data breaches hits the public, Greylock FCU knows it is playing a leading role in helping Berkshire County, Mass., residents protect their financial information. "In the past three years, as fraud worldwide has increased, we have actually seen a decrease in the impact to our members, thanks to continued education and investments in new technology," said President Angelo Stracuzzi. The Pittsfield, Mass.-based Greylock Federal has invested more than $200,000 in security initiatives, "and we have saved millions of dollars for Greylock and our member/owners, thanks to these measures," said Stracuzzi. Greylock's behind-the-scenes investments include firewalls and other technology. "Every financial institution has to make these investments," Stracuzzi said. "We have never had a breach of our systems, and we take every precaution to protect member information." It has taken several other measures to protect its members' information. For example, it was the first financial institution in Berkshire County to offer license and signature scanning. The scans enable front line staff to prevent impersonators from accessing funds or information. It has more than 52,000 licenses and signatures on file electronically. Also, Greylock Federal posted hundreds of alerts on its websites, published articles in newsletters and held forums about information security. It also produced educational radio ads that air frequently throughout the country. "We have a continuous education program to help our members protect their own information, and it seems to be working," said Marilyn Sperling, senior vice president of member services. "Sadly, there are some people who fall prey to these fraudulent schemes, but the numbers re small and seem to get smaller each time." In addition, the credit union has invested in a 24/7 fraud monitoring service for its Visa credit and debit card holders. The service tracks purchasing patterns and if those patterns change, the service may disrupt a transaction and immediately contact the member directly to verify the legitimacy of the purchase. "It's a great system and has prevented more than $1 million in potential fraud," said Sperling. "When a member is contacted by the monitoring service, it is much different than when these scammers call. The service asks you a series of yes and no questions but does not ask for any account numbers, PINs or security codes. I have been contacted myself, and it works well," she added. The $1.127 billion asset credit union also offers advice to members with tips placed daily in branches, newsletters, Web alerts, radio ads and all other communications channels. The advice is shared here, so credit unions can pass it along to their members. Among the advice:
* If you receive a call, e-mail or Internet inquiry asking for account-specific information, do not respond. Hang up and alert your financial institution as soon as possible. * Watch out for scams that promise something for nothing. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. * Lock up or shred any documents with personal information. * Review your account statements regularly and order a credit report at least once a year. * Never use your Social Security number as a bank account or driver's license number. * Avoid sending checks from your home mailbox. Use a secure U.S. Postal Service mailbox or your credit union's online banking and bill-pay services. * Online, never open links in an e-mail unless you are 100% sure who sent it. It is safer to type in the Web address yourself. Your credit union will never send you an e-mail with a link. * Have your driver's license and signature scanned. That way, no one else can claim to be you.