Apr 1, 2001 12:00 PM

With 20 credit union branches online and integrated systems being monitored from a desktop PC, there is even more in the offing at this North Carolina security pacesetter we profiled last year.

As 1999 turned to 2000, security directors who had not held a meeting without uttering the phrase "Y2K-compliant" for months, held their collective breath. Darrell Wilson, however, passed midnight 2000 with no fear. His sights were set assuredly on 2005.

As security director for Truliant Federal Credit Union, Winston-Salem, N.C., Wilson breathed easy, knowing all that could be done had been done, to help to put the 20-branch financial institution on the map as a technologically-advanced security innovator. When we profiled Truliant in April of 2000, six of the 20 branches were online with integrated access control, digital recording and alarm capabilities. Today, all of the branches have been upgraded with sophisticated systems that have created jobs, quantified prevented losses, secured a high rate of fraud convictions ! and created very long work days for Wilson, who loves every minute of it.

"The proof is in the pudding," says Wilson of the 62 incident reports ! all for fraud ! sitting on his desk, covering a three-day period. "Other financial institutions call me and say, 'We don't have fraud like that,' and I say, 'Yes you do ! you just don't know it'."

Wilson explains that according to the Department of Justice, 59 percent of crime in America is financial, yet historically, it is has been the type of crime least investigated by law enforcement. "Law enforcement feels that there isn't really a loss ! that financial crime is sort of a victimless crime and that a credit union has the money to file insurance or write it off. We have found a third alternative: Look for the fraud, stop the fraud, gather evidence, and prosecute."

The integrated systems at Truliant, all of which Wilson monitors from his desktop PC, include: digital recording from Lanex Corp.; access control manufactured by Sensormatic, installed by Tech Systems; alarm panels from Priority One; and cameras from ADI.

In the past year, the systems have more than paid for themselves, says Wilson. They have reduced maintenance costs by $100,000, helped Truliant document $139,000 in prevented fraud, and helped to put 26 people in jail for fraud. They also prompted the development of an investigation process that includes on-site criminal background checks.

Wilson and information systems specialist Tammy Bennett maintain the systems themselves at a substantial cost savings, and Wilson uses Compas Downloader software from Ademco to monitor alarm panels at each branch, downloading opening and closing times and user reports. Wilson took courses that certified him for the monitoring, and next year he plans to hire staff to handle the monitoring on-site. Truliant has also partnered with Priority One, Greenville, S.C., to set up its own UL-approved monitoring station.

Wilson believes that solid vendor relationships are valuable, yet hard-won, and he asserts that Truliant has made a believer out of some major vendors. "We know when they don't install equipment right because we're there watching them," he points out. He cites one instance where he fired a major industry player whose technicians had dismantled an ATM and removed the camera to prevent recording, but forgot to take out the power and the cable, so Wilson recorded them in action the whole time.

"All the people we have had arrested pleaded guilty, because there was no question as to their guilt. The evidence was there. When they come in to open up a fraudulent membership account, we do a criminal history check, and the Autotrack program we use to detect fraud immediately starts finding mistakes. We put a block on the account, pull up the digital, identify the individual, call the police and institute a case." He says Truliant has actually lured people trying to defraud the credit union into a branch, thinking they are about to cash in, and then had them placed under arrest.

Wilson says approximately $300,000 has been saved over the past year, counting losses prevented, maintenance costs saved ! and judicious people power.

People power is key, he says, ironically, as Truliant's security capabilities become ever more sophisticated. In addition to plans to hire monitoring staff, the company also plans to hire a full-time investigator and a staffer to assist Bennett with maintenance.

Not one to gather technological moss, Wilson is currently spearheading a test of Identix digital fingerprinting technology to be used to further secure access to the company's databases.

Truliant also uses diagnostic software from Lanex Corp., which calls up security components at regularly scheduled intervals and does a self-diagnostic of the systems, so in the mornings, Wilson has a printout of system status on his desk. Notably, the systems have had zero downtime in the past year, he says.

A new Truliant branch, under construction in Raleigh, N.C., will be state-of-the-art, synthesizing all that has been developed in Truliant's first 20 branches.

"Financial security is one of the main reasons people make choices regarding which credit union they're going to use," says Wilson. "They want to know their money is safe ! it's second only to their children."

Toward that end, Wilson is developing a Web page devoted entirely to security at the credit union. It will expand incident reporting and allow credit union members to voice their security concerns.

"Financial institutions don't like to talk about crime," he says. "But until financial institutions band together and demand that law enforcement pay attention to fraud, we're going to have to do our own policing."

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