Hackers are breaking into credit union accounts. Banks’ solution? Blockchain.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, an increasing number of scammers are targeting credit unions’ already vulnerable call centers.

In December of 2019, a North Carolina man logged into his credit union and watched as a scammer withdrew money from his account. In early April, a fraudster impersonated credit union employees, asking customers to tell him their account information — he then withdrew more than $10,000 of their savings.

Last year, hackers cost U.S. consumers a combined $16.9 billion in identity fraud, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, the risk of account takeovers is up. According to Julie Esser, chief experience officer at CULedger, a credit union services organization (CUSO), credit unions going digital has led to a rise in criminals targeting remote call centers.

“Predators prey on these entry-level positions to try and get personal information out of them,” Esser said. “They just pretend they are somebody they’re not and oftentimes it’s successful.”

CULedger started as a research project in 2016, with 70 credit unions and industry trade groups dropping a combined $650,000 into a pilot blockchain project aimed at preventing call center fraud. The group chose to focus on blockchain because it was a proven technology, Esser said: “I’m not aware of any blockchain that’s been hacked.” Two years later, the Denver-based company was officially formed and is now putting its technology to the test.

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