Fighting Fraud and Financial Crime from the Call Center

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Americans’ bank accounts are under siege from scammers, hackers, fraudsters, ATM skimmers and phishing attacks.

Today’s interconnected world gives digital crooks plenty of opportunities to steal personal information and raid accounts. And the problem is only getting worse. That’s why banks are hiring a growing number of workers to field frantic phone calls from customers who have been targeted.

Fraud call center workers, sometimes referred to as fraud analysts or fraud client service representatives (CSRs), are being hired all over the country to meet the challenge. Jeremy Rowe, an account manager based in Salt Lake City, finds call center associates for one of North America’s largest banks. We spoke with him to learn more about the job.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill call center job. It’s more challenging, but it’s also better-paying. To do it successfully, you need skill, training and lots of empathy.

“This isn’t a retail call center where you help people order a pillow sham or track down a package,” Rowe said. “This is a place where you come in and actually change people’s lives.”

What are the job responsibilities?

You take calls from customers, ask questions, document their information and determine how to fix their problem. It could be as simple as a quick password reset, or it could be a more complicated issue that requires several more steps.

“The goal is to make sure that person gets off the phone knowing that somebody’s taking care of them,” Rowe said. “They know that the money they had in their account is going to be put back, and their credit card information isn’t going to be used at every retailer in the country.”

Why is there a rising demand?

“Unfortunately, it’s becoming so much easier for hackers to do this stuff, because now you’ve got mobile banking, Venmo, PayPal — all these apps on your phone,” Rowe said. “Criminals can literally walk by somebody on the street and electronically steal everything you have in a fly-by.”

“We’ve got a center of 120 people who take calls non-stop, back-to-back from people who’ve had their information stolen. It’s one of maybe five fraud call centers around the country for one bank. So you’re looking at 500 to 600 associates who take these calls. This speaks to the number of people falling victim to financial fraud.”

What are employers looking for?

“Somebody who’s not a job hopper,” Rowe said. “They need to have stayed at least a year in every call center they’ve worked.”

The paid training for these jobs is so in-depth that banks don’t want to invest the time and money in an employee who’s likely to leave quickly.

Beyond that, they’re looking for people who have communication skills, the ability to multitask with phones and multiple computer screens, and enough empathy to put themselves in a fraud victim’s shoes.

“You’ve got to be able to deal with people who are going through all kinds of emotions,” Rowe said. “What’s the feeling you have when you learn that every dollar you’ve ever made is gone? Often, we find that candidates who have experienced financial fraud do well in these roles. Maybe it’s because they’ve been there before, or maybe this is their chance to fight back against fraud.”

What kind of person thrives in this role?

“This is a highly demanding job that you can get some satisfaction from, but you have to be in it for the right reasons,” Rowe said.

“We want you to have the confidence to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Jones, I really feel for you right now. I’ve seen this a lot of times. I’m going to take care of you. You give me the next 15 minutes and I’ll make sure your information is safe.’” An ability to project confidence and empathy helps you cut through a customer’s panic by creating trust. They want to know they aren’t just a number, and that you’re the person who can solve their problem.

What training is offered?

You start with two weeks of paid classroom training that focuses on banking basics and how to combat financial fraud.

“In those two weeks, you need to go through a book that’s about two-and-a-half inches thick,” Rowe said. “We always tell people, ‘It’s like drinking from a fire hose.’”

Next, it’s time to move out onto the floor and start taking live calls. For your first six weeks of fielding calls, you sit with a mentor who listens in and gives you feedback.

“They play back the recordings, so you can listen and understand what you missed or what you did well — or the reaction of the person on the other end of the line,” Rowe said.

Are there opportunities for advancement?

Given the specific skills, training and experience needed to fight financial crime, many companies promote people from within.

“We’re always hiring. And with hiring comes mentors, team leads, supervisors and eventually manager roles,” Rowe said. “Nine months from now, you could be a mentor or a team lead or a coach. All of the supervisors — they started on the call center floor.”

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