Bellco FCU Scanning Member IDs Into Its Database

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Bellco Federal Credit Union is a mid-sized credit union-it has 6,900 members and $46 million in assets-in this mid-sized town 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. But it is taking a big-sized step to combat fraud and identity theft that many larger institutions in big cities would be hard-pressed to top.

In November 2002, Bellco installed an imaging system and began scanning its members' government-issued photo identification cards. When a member comes into the branch to conduct a transaction, the teller simply presses a "hot key" and an image of the member's driver's license or similar document is displayed.

Robin Shappell, vice president of operations for Bellco, said tellers can hit a second hot key to display the membership cards associated with the account-which have the signatures of all authorized members.

"We can identify primary members, joint members, whatever we need," she said. "The employees like it because it gives a personal touch. We like it because it is a great system that is working really well for us, and it is a positive trend with technology."

According to Shappell, Bellco did not have a fraud problem-and it was not shopping for an identity theft security system-the circumstances simply fell into place last October.

The first step was a man who worked for Bellco's data processing company who left to start his own imaging business: a firm he dubbed Millennium Vision. Shappell said representatives from Bellco met with Millennium Vision about the possibility of bringing high technology to the CU, and then took the idea to Bellco's board of directors.

"We have a very proactive board," she said. "The board made the decision in just two weeks."

Once the deal was struck, installation of the technology, which cost approximately $30,000, required about one month. The CU scans ID cards for all new accounts, and scans other members as they come in.

Shappell said member feedback has been good, and only a few have objected to having their identification scanned.

"Most people do not hesitate to give us their driver's licenses when they come in," she told The Credit Union Journal. "Every once in a while, someone takes issue, and we explain that if they don't let us scan, they will have to be ID'd every time. At that point, most members let us scan their licenses. At most, I would say 5% of members opt to be ID'd every time."

Bellco still has many members who have not yet been scanned, but Shappell said she is proud of the CU's progress. She said Bellco became a community credit union in April 2001, which made for changes in personal service.

"The usual curse and benefit to being a credit union is how well we know our members. After we became a community credit union, we didn't know our members as well as we once did. And we had to hire more employees to handle the increase in members, so those new employees didn't know our members who have been around for years."

In addition to the desire to have tellers feel like they know the members, Shappell cited the USA Patriot Act, which may require the use of government ID cards in the future.

"We wanted to be one step ahead of that," she said.

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