- For a partnership with local law enforcement, Verve formed a marketing vehicle called the Fraud Squad to create higher awareness about financial fraud.
- The Fraud Squad presents at community events but soon will also create materials for law enforcement and Verve team members to share with their communities.
Credit unions and police departments share a common goal — to protect and to serve — so it’s no surprise that Verve, A Credit Union ($1.5B, Oshkosh, WI) has partnered with local law enforcement to bolster members’ cyber defenses.
“A group of law enforcement agencies representing the Appleton and Fox Crossing police departments and the Winnebago County sheriff’s department had been working together to get their own awareness initiatives off the ground,” says Jordan Destree, Verve’s assistant vice president of brand and design. “They felt if they had a strong financial partner working in tandem with law enforcement, the campaign would be stronger.”
That’s why the group reached out to Verve to collaborate with the credit union on ways to create higher awareness about financial fraud.
“The sophistication of the scams and fraud we see today makes each and every one of us targets,” says Meghan Cash, a lieutenant with the Appleton Police Department. “From young adults affected by fake job offers to senior citizens convinced they are helping a family member in need, our entire community is being impacted. It was clear a strong partnership was needed to be more effective in protecting community members from losses.”
Verve Serves With Merv
Verve practices a hands-on approach to its community partnerships and events. Rather than simply writing checks, it is visible, present, and active in the community. The Verve brand represents energy and enthusiasm, and the law enforcement partnership neatly aligns with the cooperative’s mission to be active and impactful in terms of sharing knowledge about the tactics scammers and fraudsters use to capture identities and sensitive information.
Verve formed and branded a marketing vehicle it called the Fraud Squad and fast-tracked a campaign it launched in early 2022. The campaign features heroic-looking imagery of uniformed officers and ordinary citizens. To launch the project, Verve created a movie trailer that garnered substantial attention from members as well as shares on social media, proving the campaign resonated with members and the community.
“We wanted to stand out,” Destree says. “We did that by using a spokesperson we call Merv to humanize financial products. Merv uses humor and wit to turn a complex subject into a relatable message.”
According to the AVP, Merv’s presentation of trendy and timely subject matter connects with audiences and reflects the authenticity of the credit union.
Merv’s work on fraud is particularly timely. Although fraud prevention is always a concern for credit unions, October’s designation as Cybersecurity Awareness Month means many financial institutions are redoubling efforts to ensure consumers are as protected as possible.
The intention of Merv and the Fraud Squad is to share information with members and the community to help prevent fraud and scams. Verve, Merv, and the law enforcement teams are all part of the Fraud Squad, but the participation of members, friends, and family is equally important. For them, the credit union created a hub of resources at fraudsquad.com and shares fraud-fighting information on social media. The credit union’s expectation is that members and the communities it serves share this information with friends and family.
“Merv helps us break down complex banking products in a relatable, human way,” Destree says. “He’s an incredible brand asset. We can present a product in an everyday situation because Merv is a person, not a loan or a checking account. Our philosophy is to approach programs with energy and enthusiasm, and Merv allows us to deliver a message that way.”
Additionally, Verve offers training for frontline retail staff and is steadily increasing the volume of educational seminars it presents at locations throughout the Oshkosh communities.
“In short, it’s an education-based public awareness campaign,” Destree says.
Education And Outreach
Since the formation of the Fraud Squad, Verve has focused on sharing fraud prevention information on fraudsquad.com and presenting the Fraud Squad at local community events, including a healthy aging conference, local libraries, and neighborhood watch groups. In the next phase, Verve will focus on increasing the volume of presentations and virtual education as well as creating materials for law enforcement and Verve team members to share with their communities.
“Fraudsters are working all angles, so we need to do the same,” says Destree, acknowledging the scope of the threats that fraudsters and scammers pose to the community. “If a scam or fraud can have an impact on your wallet, then it’s within our focus. Law enforcement agencies need to be prepared to process and act on reports of all kinds of financial fraud, so this project is aimed to get out in front of that. We want community members to be confident and proactive, not fearful and reactive.”
What Success Looks Like
Statistics from each law enforcement agency show the number of fraud victims is increasing year after year. Verve believes the Fraud Squad notches a win every time its efforts reduces the number of victims.
“It’s really about doing the right thing for our members and communities,” Destree says. “It’s about intention and impact.”
Verve had no intention on monetizing its participation in forming the Fraud Squad. ROI was not a consideration. In fact, the credit union needed very little money to get the project up and running.
“We asked our creative partners to donate their skills toward this important effort,” Destree says. “Internal and external partners jumped on board to get this off the ground for the greater good of the community. In just the first week of our launch, we had more than $100,000 in free media exposure and 2 million impressions on the trackable donated media.”
Lessons Learned And Next Steps
According to Destree, the Fraud Squad campaign offers a few best practices for how to engage members.
“Being bold and different works,” the AVP says. “Your best results will come from making a complex message simple.”
Of course, “bold” and “different” will not automatically present a winning idea.
“Not every idea will achieve the desired response or results,” Destree says. “Some things will work, and others won’t. You learn and then iterate based on those initial decisions.”
Finally, Destree says the Fraud Squad campaign has no plans of letting up.
“We have many additional law enforcement agencies ready to join the Fraud Squad, and we’re excited to expand our relationships with police departments in the Oshkosh community. We’re excited to expand our relationships in the communities we serve and beyond.”