WASHINGTON—The FBI reported more than 4,250 financial institutions were robbed last year. While robbers typically complete their heists during office hours, a recent trend of targeting credit unions at opening and closing time has emerged, CUNA reported.
“Those are vulnerable times for many reasons, mainly due to staff being rushed and less aware of their surroundings. Robbers prepare by researching their targets,” CUNA stated. “They study who does what, when, how, and with whom. They’re looking for the weakest links.”
“Criminals often case their targets to identify lax processes and turn them into prime opportunities,” said Bob Bouvier, risk consultant for CUNA Mutual Group, in the CUNA report. “Unfortunately, opening and closing have become too routine, making it easier for robbers to figure out.”
However, credit unions can thwart robbery attempts by showing signs of being prepared.
“Following strong practices—including vigilant opening and closing procedures—can make your credit union far less attractive to robbers,” Bouvier said.
Bouvier said credit union employees’ job as a risk manager begins when they leave home in the morning and ends when they return home in the evening.
“While you might not be able to prevent a robbery, you can make yourself—and the credit union—a less inviting target by knowing your surroundings and following key procedures,” he said.
Bouvier recommend that when opening:
- Have two employees present. Park away from each other but within view of the entrance. “This can deter someone from walking up and controlling both of you,” he said.
- Have one employee enter and complete a walk-through while another co-worker watches from their vehicle.
- Post an “all-clear” signal that’s visible to other employees, indicating it’s safe to enter. Change the signal quarterly.
- Conduct a building walk-through to ensure nobody remains inside. Check all floors, offices, restrooms, behind the teller counter, the break room, elevators, and any other place someone might hide.
- Wait for members or visitors to leave the premises, including all ATM foyers that someone must use to enter or exit the building.
- Limit smartphone use, which can distract employees from their surroundings. “Robbers can recognize that you’re inattentive and use it as an opportunity to approach you,” he said.
- Exit in pairs or groups to ensure everyone makes it out of the building and to their cars safely.