New Technology Approaches Empower Credit Unions to Safeguard Member Experience, Security and Fraud Prevention


Customer experience and security – these are top objectives for credit unions today, and the need for sound strategies to support these priorities that can scale as credit unions grow is paramount.

While the contact center has always played a starring role in customer experience strategies, today it’s also a key battle ground in the fight against fraud. Thanks in part to rigorous security protocols that are now applied to credit cards and online channels, fraudsters are targeting contact centers as a more vulnerable entry point to gather consumer information and potentially steal their identity and funds. Before fraudsters use stolen credentials, they often call to fill in gaps in their data and/or prepare an account for takeover.

This is a troubling trend first described by Aite Group’s 2016 report, “Call centers: The Fraud Enablement Channel.” The firm forecasts that account takeover losses in call centers are expected to top $775 million in 2020.

Increasingly, fraudsters are leveraging stolen personally identifying information which renders knowledge-based authentication (such as security questions) increasingly inadequate for distinguishing legitimate customers from fraudsters during phone interactions.

As well, traditional fraud prevention practices have had an unintentional effect of undermining the overall member experience with monotonous security questions. Today, however, voice biometrics technology is being deployed to help contact centers play an active, critical role in the fight against fraud in a seamless manner for both contact center agents and credit union members.

Voice biometrics is a technology that profiles and recognizes the unique vocal characteristics, or “voiceprints,” of callers dialing into a contact center. Voiceprints of known fraudsters are stored in a central reference database and each inbound call is automatically screened against this database in the background.

A contact center can quickly and easily validate a legitimate customer’s identity based on his/her own unique “voiceprint,” and do so in the background while the call is in process. When a match is detected for a known fraudulent caller, it proactively notifies the agent and/or fraud management system.

Leveraging this technology enables contact centers to play an active, critical role in the fight against fraud in a way that’s seamless and doesn’t require additional security questions to authenticate legitimate customers, that prolong calls and can annoy customers.

This technology also helps credit unions deliver more streamlined and efficient interactions. Now credit unions can more rapidly address member needs—be it to ask a question, resolve an issue, complete a transaction, etc., lowering average handle time and call costs while minimizing customer effort and frustration.

What’s more, the technology is playing a significant role in curtailing instances of fraud taking place through credit union contact centers since known fraudsters can be detected and thwarted — even if they answer security questions correctly.

Opus Research, a technology analysis and marketing firm that specializes in conversational technologies, has long seen zero-effort authentication as a necessity for creating trusted links between brands and their customers; the firm refers to this as Intelligent Authentication. In Opus Research’s recent report, “2019 Intelligent Authentication and Voice Biometrics Intelliview,” analyst Dan Miller affirms the value of this approach, stating, “We’ve known it is a balancing act between security and convenience, which is why we looked to biometrics, specifically voice biometrics, as the foundation for simple assertion and authentication of a claimed identity in the context of a call to a customer care contact center.”

VyStar: Safeguarding Member Experience While Thwarting Fraud

Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., VyStar currently serves anyone who lives or works in the 49 contiguous counties of Central to North Florida and four Southeast Georgia counties of Camden, Charlton, Glynn and Ware. The credit union is the fourth largest financial institution in Northeast Florida with more than $9 billion in assets and over 680,000 members. VyStar is also the largest mortgage lender in Northeast Florida. The credit union is nationally ranked as the 15th largest credit union in the country among 5,800+ credit unions by asset size and is the 14th largest employer in Northeast Florida with over 1,600 employees.

VyStar’s tagline: “We never forget that it’s your money” underscores its focus on respecting members’ time and money. The credit union strives to help its members achieve their goals and conduct their financial business quickly and conveniently.

The credit union has simplified, modernized and automated its approach to fraud detection, mitigation and prevention, enhancing security while supporting the delivery of more efficient, seamless and safe interactions.

Starting with adaptive fraud analytics, multiple technology layers are employed for real-time threat analysis prior to calls reaching an agent. This includes analysis of telephony and voice self-service behavioral data where unique characteristics and patterns can precipitate a fraudulent event. Once a call reaches an agent, further analysis via embedded voice biometrics authenticates the member seamlessly or detects a fraudster.

Incoming calls are “scored” in real-time per telephony data and various risk profile criteria. This score is sent to the agent’s desktop via a screen pop with next-steps guidance.

A key element of VyStar’s fraud detection approach is the use of passive voice biometrics which operate in the background without disrupting live phone conversations. It does not require certain words or phrases to be used and is language-independent.

This supports a more efficient and effective experience for both agent and member, leading to lower average handle time and call costs, fraud prevention, and potential damage from financial loss that can include time-consuming recovery efforts, credit damage to members and harm to brand reputation. 

By validating identities based on a caller’s unique voiceprint and matching it with a voiceprint from a database of known fraudsters, VyStar can readily identify and catch fraudulent callers. This has a direct and positive impact on member and data security and plays a significant role in curtailing instances of fraud taking place through its contact centers.

Furthermore, member identity validation done seamlessly and automatically in the background leads to more efficient interactions that require less effort, time and cost. 

It’s this proactive approach to identifying, mitigating and preventing fraud in the contact center, that will benefit VyStar as it nears the critical $10 billion in asset mark – a significant milestone, that will bring the credit union under the oversight authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – ushering in a new set of regulations and regulators and an additional examination aside from the NCUA, FDIC, or OCC.

“A fraud situation is a highly emotionally-charged event, one that can either reinforce member trust or potentially destroy it,” said Melissa Thomas, Senior Vice President of Operations and Payments, VyStar Credit Union. “Automating our fraud detection will help our fraud department achieve incredible time savings over previous manual methods. New technology in our contact center can take pressure off the employees by providing proactive fraud indicators in real-time to prevent fraud activity before it begins, while ensuring an excellent member experience.”

Dan Spohrer is vice president of product strategy for Verint’s recording, real-time speech and identity analytics solutions. In this role, Spohrer brings insights and actionable intelligence to organizations. Whether it’s working with organizations to enable agents with automated next best actions, or helping fraud teams identify fraudulent callers in real-time – Spohrer provides guidance and support for integrations to customer engagement channels for faster time to market for real-time decision making.

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