Security Director News: Using video to fight fraud

November 16, 2009 | Coverage

Security Director News

Facial recognition, license-plate recognition solves problems for Union Savings

DANBURY, Conn.—“We noticed during a review of security equipment that we weren’t capturing enough information and there was a limited amount of shots per camera,” said Bill McNamara, senior vice president of technology and security at Union Savings Bank. Banking regulations require the bank to store six months worth of data, but McNamara found the bank’s system could only maintain one frame for every eight seconds of video per camera. “When we went to do a fraud review and saw we only got one shot of something, we realized we needed a better picture of what was happening.”

A better picture—no pun intended.

However, McNamara wasn’t interested in scrapping his 250 existing cameras installed in 19 branches, and he felt it imperative that a new system not just satisfy regulatory requirements, but actually help the bank do business and solve and prevent fraud. “I think we took a different approach and not just cameras for the sake of cameras, and we tried to utilize technology to make us more efficient,” he said. “Technology and security tie hand-in-hand and we invested some money into it and we didn’t do a formal ROI, but in the end this product helped us reduce fraud and create efficient fraud reports.”

So McNamara decided to wade into the waters of video analytics, specifically a facial recognition and license-plate recognition solution provided by 3VR, which was able to keep the camera infrastructure in place and simply swap out the DVRs in each branch with a 3VR appliance. The surveillance platform allows Union Savings to record a larger amount of information, but also gives the bank the capability to search video using facial recognition software. Now, when the bank identifies individuals who may be committing fraud, they can tag the person’s face and automatically search for other times when that individual was in any of the bank’s branches.

“We’ve made video searchable much like Google,” said Marc Bergeron, senior director enterprise systems sales for 3VR. “We’ve created searchable metadata with tags linked to video, which allows users to locate raw video by searching for faces,” he said.

While McNamara said the bank needed to upgrade lenses and relocate some of the cameras to more easily capture customer’s faces, it was able to use the majority of its existing infrastructure, which largely contributed to the cost-effectiveness of the upgrade. “That’s something we’ve learned from technology, is that we try to plan ahead to make use of technology for years,” he said.

Further, on Nov. 12, Union Savings Bank completed the integration of its teller system into the video surveillance system. “Now we can see a picture and the information from each transaction and then we’re able to index multiple points of transaction and do cross searches and search by account or transaction type and see what folks are doing in the account,” McNamara said.

Having this additional information will greatly improve the bank’s ability to track and identify issues of fraud. Even before integrating the teller system, McNamara said the bank was able to use the system to identify a group of individuals cashing fraudulent checks. “We had a fraud ring stealing checks from dentists and other doctors when cleaning their offices and they would come in and cash checks,” McNamara said. Using the facial recognition technology, the bank could identify the person cashing the checks, and then run a search to see if that same person was cashing fraudulent checks in other accounts and at multiple locations. 

McNamara said the bank has yet to integrate the alerting capabilities of the system, but plans to in the future. Using alerting capabilities, the system could notify the bank when it recognizes a customer who may have been involved in fraudulent activity.

In addition to adding the teller system, with cameras placed at several of its drive-up lanes and ATM machines, Union Savings Bank records and stores license plate numbers of customers. “There’s a lot of fraud committed at ATMs,” said McNamara. “It’s almost an anonymous way to do business and people deposit bad checks and try to take money out without being confronted by a teller.” With the license plate reader functionality, the bank is able to capture the license plate number of a person depositing a fraudulent check to run through the DMV system.

Integrating new capabilities into its existing video system continues to make investigating fraud easier, said McNamara. “We continue to utilize technology to make us more efficient,” he said.

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