Saying that consumers can protect themselves the best when it comes to warding off identity theft and banking fraud, the Puerto Rico Bankers Association launched Tuesday a permanent educational initiative to teach people how to protect themselves against attacks to their personal finances.
During a news conference in Hato Rey, organization President Aurelio Alemán said the purpose of the effort is to “not only emphasize on financial advice, but broaden and facilitate access to consumers to sources of information and additional educational tools to contribute to their sound financial health.”
That said, Alemán explained that this new pitch involves the use of social network platforms Facebook and Twitter for the first time, to reach a younger generation of consumers who may depend on them for their news and information.
“What we’re trying to do with this effort is to get the public to continue gaining awareness of their financial responsibilities,” said Bankers Association Executive Director Arturo Carrión. “The government can’t do it all. It can pass laws. The private sector can do its part to help consumers, but it is up to the individuals to take in our advice to protect their credit and their identity.”
The advice he mentioned are the five components of the strategy that begins today, which focuses on five key messages: “You are your best defense against fraud,” “We help you promote your prosperity,” “Shaping Puerto Rico’s future together,” “You’re the keeper of your credit,” and “You are your pocket’s best ally.”
All of the messages offering basic advice and recommendations to benefit consumers will be posted on the Bankers Association’s Facebook page and discussed via Twitter in the form of short messages, the executives said.
“What we want to do is expand our reach and expand our message,” Alemán said, adding through Facebook alone, the effort could reach some 1.2 million local users ages 18 to 34.
While the banking executives could not quantify the losses associated with Puerto Rico’s the identity theft and banking fraud problem — which affect both consumers and financial institutions — a survey released by ACI Worldwide in 2010 said an average of 32 percent of U.S. consumers reported credit card fraud during the five years prior to the study. “Skimming” is the main culprit behind identity theft, as it entails illegally copying credit card numbers to conduct fraudulent transactions.
Statistics for local identity theft and banking fraud are essentially held by credit card companies, which Alemán said exclude Puerto Rico from their stateside figures.
“However, I can tell you that Puerto Rico’s figures are lower than what it is throughout the rest of Latin America,” Alemán noted.
Multi-sector anti-fraud movement
During the news conference, Carrión said the Bankers Association is also working with the island’s largest trade organizations — the Puerto Rico Restaurant Association, the United Retailers Association, the Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber, known as MIDA, and soon, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce — to conduct a better scrutiny of staff hired to work at their establishments.
“We want to do a better job in identifying the staff that is joining companies and have the organizations work with law enforcement agencies on programs to identify suspicious people and fraudulent schemes,” he said.
The Bankers Association has been working in tandem with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to combat money laundering in Puerto Rico and establish policies to detect and report incidents at local banking institutions.