LaShae Woodard has worked at Ent Credit Union for nearly three decades. The Air Force brat lived in the Springs before her family moved to Guam. Woodard then returned to the Front Range when she was in the ninth grade.
“My parents decided during our first assignment here that this is where they wanted to retire,” she said.
Woodard attended Falcon High School and began her career with the credit union in December 1989 as a teller. She has since advanced and was promoted in January to director of fraud management for the Colorado Springs-based institution, where she leads a team of 14 to combat financial malefactors.
“I jokingly tell my family, ‘A lot happened today. I just can’t share it with you guys,’” Woodard said of frequent ongoing investigations.
Woodard spoke to the Business Journal this week about her new responsibilities and Ent’s role in keeping businesses and its members safe.
What do you do as director of fraud management?
My main duty is to protect the credit union’s assets and protect our members as well. Our goal is that members don’t fall victim to scams, that they’re not taken advantage of. We’re protecting the credit union from losses and the way to do that is to protect our members.
So my department looks at credit card disputes; members who may have had their accounts compromised; members who lose wallets, checkbooks — things like that.
How has this kind of work evolved?
Oh my gosh. It has evolved so much. We were talking the other day about how helpful it would be to have an IT person in our department. We have an IT person we reach out to anyway but we joked about how it would be easier if they just sat in our department. Hopefully one day that will be.
You know, people are friending others on Facebook saying, ‘Hey I’ve got this great deal for you. Give me your online banking passwords so I can make a deposit and you can keep a little bit of [money]. It’s totally legit.’
Except it’s totally not.
Fighting crime is a little bit different these days because a lot of this is electronic. Chip cards have helped cut down on the fraud of people reproducing cards. However, the crooks are just getting better.
What are the most common types of fraud?
The most common comes from stolen mail. People will mail from their mailbox in front of their house or put it in the blue [federal] boxes outside the Post Office.
I’d recommend you walk it in. You can’t watch your mail all the time. People will pay their bills and checks are often stolen.
If you don’t monitor your online banking, you may not be aware your check was cleared by someone you didn’t intend it to go to until the place you sent it to tells you your payment is late.
Another common one is people reaching out to you on Facebook or dating websites, selling websites, like craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You’ll sell an item and you’re asking $100. Someone will say, ‘Hey, I really want your item for $100. So I’ll send you $300. You take the $100 and I’ll give you a person to send the shipment to. Send him the money and he’ll pay the shipping costs.’ Not a bad deal. You put $100 in an account, transfer $200 to this person and wait on instructions to ship it and then the check comes back. Now you’re out your money and the amount of the check sent to the other person. Anytime someone says they’ll pay more than what you’re asking or they want you to ship it somewhere unusual, it’s more than likely fraud.
If you meet someone online and the relationship moves rapidly, that’s a warning sign too.
The days of the big merchants saying they were hacked — you don’t see that as often and that’s because of chips in cards. However, not all gas pumps are chip enabled, so you can still see skimming devices there that can reproduce cards. I don’t just get gas anywhere. And thankfully [Ent] ATMs catch it if something is inserted in our machines because card fraud is still out there.
You’ll also still see, at a dog park or someplace where someone doesn’t want to carry a purse or wallet, you’ll see windows smashed and wallets and purses stolen. With summer coming, we’ll probably see an uptick with that.
Do people still fall for the Nigerian prince scam?
Yes. Or Publishers Clearing House. They’ll say you won but have to pay taxes in advance. Or that you won the Canadian lottery and have to pay taxes in advance.
A lot of these go through cycles.
What should businesses know about fraud?
A business’ opportunity for loss could be bigger. I know who my checks go to. We don’t write many checks these days. And if I do, it’s probably to the same people.
If you’re a business, you have to do payroll, you have to pay suppliers. Businesses have a little higher risk because their checks stand a greater chance of being reproduced.
I also recommend to businesses that if you don’t have a method to go in and verify which payments have been cleared, it’s not a bad habit to get into — checking to see what’s cleared overnight. …
It’s always safer to do some things electronically. If we see a business check reproduced, it’s harder to track because if they pay 20, 30 people every two weeks and mail out that many checks — if you can set up electronic means for payroll, it takes those checks out of the pipeline of being reproduced.
Also, the more you pay strangers, the more vulnerable you could be. If you’re in a business where you issue checks to people you may not know, that increases your risk. Like if you have a business and pay people for a day’s work or in exchange for a service, you’re more liable because you don’t know who you’re doing business with.
Are there cybercrime concerns regarding electronic payments?
Most places have a payroll company that processes them. If they’re a member here, they can process it through our direct deposit and don’t have to worry about hacking as long as they keep their computer secure.
We get tested periodically. We’ll get phishing scheme emails to make sure we’re not clicking on random stuff.
Businesses should make sure they have a method that ensures those handling emails know what and what not to click on.
What are some other things businesses should be aware of?
We have members who own businesses and travel a lot. Our members can go in and do travel notes for their cards. For business people, that’s been really popular. They don’t have to remember to reach out to the bank. They can do this on their own. We have some business clients who travel all the time and they can go in and preset their notes for the month as to where they will be and they don’t have to worry about our fraud monitoring system picking that up.
How’s law enforcement doing regarding fraud?
I have to say, we have a great relationship with law enforcement. The [Colorado Springs] Police Department and the [El Paso County] Sheriff’s [Office] are really on top of these issues. If we see something and a member is a victim, they are very responsive. We always recommend people file a police report. You may not be the only victim.
How much communication about fraud takes place between local banks and credit unions?
We lead what we call FRIENDs [Fraud, Robbery, Investigations, Electronic Network Delivery]. It’s a fraud investigators network. We encourage other fraud investigators of other institutions to come and we meet once a month.
We talk about things going on in the Springs. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, CSPD, the Postal Inspector have attended. At one time we had merchants coming.
How many institutions attend the events?
Usually there are 20 to 30 of us there but some of that is law enforcement. I think it’s great they’ve committed to coming. … We’d seen a rise in what we thought could have been mail theft in a certain part of town. It’s important for us to communicate that with law enforcement and the other banks. If a credit union or bank loses money, that means someone has taken a loss — a member or customer. We try to be proactive about it.