Fraud fighter battles scammers

Collaboration and education key to keeping crooks at bay, says Hailey Windham.

September 22, 2023

During childhood games of cops and robbers, Hailey Windham was always the cop.

It should be no a surprise, then, that she’s gone from a teller to a fraud fighter.

Windham started her financial services career as a teller at a local bank in 2014. She got her first taste of fraud prevention after she moved into deposit operations and had the “privilege” of processing Regulation E debit card disputes.

“It took me to this realm of digging and diving, and trying to figure out what exactly happened and why we had fraud in the first place,” says Windham, financial crimes investigation officer at $1.7 billion asset SAFE Federal Credit Union in Sumter, S.C. “It became a big passion of mine to figure out how we could stop it, how we could prevent it, and if there was a way to get in front of the fraud.”

She combines that passion with the desire to advocate for fraud awareness and discover ways to identify and deter fraud so members don’t become victims. Windham accomplishes this in a variety of ways, including talking with members who’ve been victims, improving processes to reduce the potential for fraud, and educating staff.

To raise awareness and educate SAFE Federal staff, Windham developed The TEA (training, education, and awareness), an employee-exclusive podcast that provides the understanding and tools needed to remain vigilant in the fight against fraud.

The monthly podcast tells real-life stories of what’s happening at the credit union through interviews with departments about what they’re doing, as well as “juicy fraud stories.” A segment called Fraudology examines current scams and how they work.

“With fraud, you have to sell the story,” Windham says. “You have to make it relatable so everybody can understand what’s going on.”

Perhaps the most effective tool to fight fraud is collaboration. Windham was the driving force behind creating a roundtable discussion with 10 South Carolina credit unions in 2022 to discuss the state of fraud and how to prevent it.

The discussions took off and now take place quarterly. She also co-leads a monthly fraud call with the CUNA Compliance Community, where participants share instances of fraud they’re seeing.

“If we all work together, we can implement some of the same processes that can help eliminate fraud,” Windham says. “If it works in one place, it can work here, too. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Let’s use the same wheel and just grease it up a bit.”

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