by Shay Glinoyer Peled

Video Surveillance in the Fight Against Bank Fraud

Sep 20, 20077 mins
IT Strategy

Video surveillance technology, employed in conjunction with other security measures such as supplementary technology, information sharing with authorities, and widespread employee and consumer education, can help solve any number of crimes.

Fraud and other illegal activities are cause for major concern at all banks, and Israel’s Bank Hapoalim is no exception. Identity theft and on-premises holdups are some of the more prominent crimes that come to mind when we think about threats, but smaller petty crimes often are more common and can have a surprisingly significant impact not only on a bank’s bottom line but on its reputation as well.

In one such example of fraud at Bank Hapoalim, a customer had given the teller a large cash deposit. The teller, having counted the money, was in the process of putting the cash in the desk safe when he was distracted by a question from a coworker. As the teller turned to address his colleague, the customer simply reached over the counter and took back a portion of money, pocketing it.

In another case, a teller left his desk briefly, leaving a short queue of customers to wait. One of the customers from the queue stepped forward and grabbed a handful of new credit cards from a box on the teller’s desk that were ready to be mailed out to customers with activation information. The customer, undetected by his fellow bank patrons, slipped the stolen cards into a bag and stepped back into line as though nothing had happened.

As serious as these seemingly small acts of theft were, there are crimes with far graver outcomes. Recently, an elderly woman was killed after being robbed by a man who fled the scene and escaped capture. He then used the woman’s bank card to withdraw cash from a Bank Hapoalim ATM. While this story cannot have a happy conclusion, justice was served in the end with the help of video surveillance technology.

The use of video surveillance technology is a primary tactic for combating threats such as these, but to be most effective it must be employed in conjunction with other security measures like supplementary technology, information sharing with authorities, and widespread employee and consumer education.

The quality and effectiveness of video surveillance technology as a deterrent to crime or as evidence in solving crimes is often called into question. For Bank Hapoalim, however, the use of video surveillance technology has been enormously beneficial, particularly in providing conclusive evidence. Without high-quality video footage, the crimes discussed above would likely have gone unsolved, leaving breaches of sensitive customer data, identity theft and murder in their wake, and the perpetrators free to act again.

Determinants for Video Quality and Effectiveness

Generally, video quality is not an issue as long as high-grade cameras and a comprehensive video management system are installed. A decade ago, Bank Hapoalim integrated a digital video recording system from Visual Defence (the DViR) to record and manage all of its branch and ATM cameras throughout Israel, and has worked with the vendor to continually upgrade and customize the system to ensure the highest standards of security. The video surveillance system offers the bank several benefits, including a unique compression algorithm that allows video images to be stored at a very high quality with very minimal storage requirements, which helps cut overall system costs by reducing the amount of storage hardware required.

In our experience, the effectiveness of video surveillance is dependent on two variables:

  • The way in which the technology is integrated with other systems to provide useful information and
  • The manner in which an organization responds to that information.

The flexibility of the video surveillance system to be customized for specific business and security objectives is of major importance when it comes to having a system that will provide useful and relevant information. At Bank Hapoalim, our video surveillance system is integrated with the intruder alarm system, as well as with panic buttons. If either alarm is triggered, the system will send commands to cameras in the appropriate location to automatically start recording as well as saving images from a predetermined amount of time before the alarm was triggered. Those images, along with associated audio, are stored both locally and centrally.

Ease-of-use and customization capabilities also have a significant impact on video effectiveness. A digital video surveillance system, such as the DViR, with a graphical user interface (GUI) that can be tailored to closely reflect the GUI of the existing burglar alarm system creates a user experience that is familiar and can help increase rapid and efficient alarm response. For example, because our security operators were already familiar with the GUI, system training was completed in a little more than 10 minutes. Even as additional system features are added, the video surveillance system has remained very operator friendly, which continues to contribute to overall effectiveness.

Central Management and Information Sharing Made Possible (With IP) Ultimately, the effectiveness of a video surveillance system boils down to the manner in which collected information is addressed and disseminated. Information collected by the disparate elements of the security system—video surveillance, burglar alarm, panic buttons, ATM cameras, and so on—must be filtered throughout the system in such a way that it can be easily shared with the appropriate members of internal security as well as with members of law enforcement. In our experience, the ability to share information with police quickly and easily has greatly enhanced system success rates.

In Israel, it is a legal requirement to have a working Internet Protocol surveillance system installed at all bank branches. This legislation was passed to increase information sharing between bank branches and police. It created a win-win situation in which police are more readily equipped to aid in bank investigations and resulted in higher success rates in solving bank fraud crimes.

In the unfortunate murder mentioned earlier, the bank was notified by the victim’s son that his mother’s bank card had been stolen. The bank immediately put an alert on the ATM card to be notified the instant the card was used. Inevitably, the assailant attempted to use the card at a Bank Hapoalim ATM, triggering an alarm and activating the DViR to begin recording. The resulting video images were then synchronized with ATM transaction data, enabling the bank to present a very high quality image to the police. These images figured prominently in the assailant’s capture and arrest.

Video security over IP also allows the bank to manage all branch and ATM cameras from around the country in one central location. This streamlines security personnel staffing and simplifies the entire security management process for greater efficiency.

In Bank Hapoalim’s centrally managed environment, operators are alerted to different types of events with a color-coded scheme. Police and the external security patrol team are also automatically alerted to selected events based on time of day and type of alarm. The entire system is automated, so operators are freed from stepping through each minute security protocol step and can focus instead on critical response.

Moving Video Surveillance Forward

It is becoming increasingly apparent that high-quality video surveillance is an incredibly effective tool in the prevention and investigation of bank crimes. As incidents of identity fraud and other bank crimes become more and more common, the sophistication of IP video surveillance systems will grow.

Bank Hapoalim is considering more intelligent integration with other bank systems, including access control, burglar alarms, ERP and ATMs. ATMs, particularly, have quickly become a prominent consideration in the development of bank security strategy. As the breadth of integration widens to encompass a greater number of security subsystems, greater information sharing capabilities and more rapid response to emergency events are enabled.

A peek at future developments reveals some promising new advances. The transmission of mobile video over narrow bandwidths to handheld devices is one technology primed to explode. Very soon, we may see security patrol and police officers equipped with handheld video devices, allowing for near immediate response. Stay tuned.

Shay Glinoyer Peled is a security officer at Bank Hapoalim in Israel and is responsible for the bank’s central security monitoring center.