LAKE MARY, Fla.–What began as an ATM cleaning and maintenance operation at CFE FCU has evolved into a compliance and loss-prevention strategy that has earned the CU a Best Practices Award from Credit Union Journal.


Employees at the 123,000-member credit union used to visit ATM sites themselves to clean the machines and check signage, but in 2004 CFE FCU outsourced those tasks to Artistic Touch Maintenance Specialists (ATMS), which services


ATMs. In late 2009, as use of ATM skimmers by fraudsters was on the rise, as was litigation surrounding ATM signage, CFE approached the company again and asked for help keeping compliant with EFTA.


ATMS had already been taking digital photos of the cleaned ATMs, but the company now also checks for skimmers and takes photos of EFTA signage–both on the machine and the on-screen notice (the ATMS technician initiates a transaction at each machine using his own debit card as part of the process).


“We wanted to figure out how we could best position ourselves from a preventative measure to make sure we wouldn’t be sued–or if we were sued that we’d have the best defense,” explained Kevin Miller, SVP-general counsel at the $1.3-billion credit union.


Keeping Log Updated


Part of that, continued Miller, meant putting in place a system to log all of the inspections. While ATMS inspects and cleans each machine monthly, branch staff are responsible for maintaining on-site ATMs and making weekly updates to a log on the CU’s intranet. Those logs include both notes about any skimmers or other items present, any vandalism or suspicious signage, and photo documentation that all signage is in place and secure.


CFE has 41 ATMs, less than 10 of which are off-site. Three machines are serviced and inspected twice per month, either because they are in high-traffic areas or are at greater risk of vandalism.


Its careful due diligence ensured that the credit union was covered recently when it was sued for violating EFTA rules. Miller said that on one hand CU execs were not surprised “because we had heard so many institutions out there receiving lawsuits that it was something we were expecting to hit us at some point. That’s why we were so active in developing the system.”


CFE’s senior management team and its insurance company discussed the practices they had put in place, and were ultimately able to persuade the plaintiff to drop the suit as a result of having so much documentation and evidence demonstrating compliance.


Matt Heisey, director of card services, added that CFE has also relied on ATMS to help it stay compliant with new ADA requirements. Once the cash machines had been equipped with voice guidance and proper signage, “we turned to our partner and asked him to help us on a monthly basis to photograph these particular items and also check auditory outputs” for the voice guidance systems.


Even with vendor assistance, Miller noted that the buck stops at the credit union. “We have a rule that even if the vendor makes a mistake, you’re still responsible,” he said.


Miller stressed the importance of staying on top of trends to avoid getting hit with a lawsuit. “If you’re the first or second one that’s hit, there’s not much you can do; but if you’re the 20th, you should’ve at least tried to do something to prepare. You may not win, but at least you’ve done something to prepare.”

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