The USF Federal Credit Union has experienced a rash of illegal withdrawals totaling more than $3,500 since spring semester.
But Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for the University Police, said these types of actions aren’t limited to the USF credit union.
“I think it’s important to realize this is systemic and that it’s not just happening because we have a credit union on campus,” Klingebiel said. “(These illegal withdrawals) are something that are a problem that is happening worldwide.”
The most recent illegal withdrawals occurred on May 24, May 28 and Nov. 7 of 2002, he said.
Teresa McDougall, assistant vice president for the USF credit union, said the withdrawals are not occurring through ATMs. McDougall said one of the withdrawals was a stolen check and could not comment on the other two due to confidentiality issues, but she said they were not ATM related.
McDougall said the case with the stolen check was family related.
“A sibling of the credit union member stole a check, wrote it out and cashed the check,” McDougall said.
McDougall said credit union members tend to have a different outlook on the case when family members are involved.
“At that point in time when you have a family member being the one who committed the crime, then the people don’t want to prosecute (the family member).”
The check was written for $175, said McDougall.
McDougall said illegal withdrawals at the credit union are not that common.
McDougall attributes this to the stringent acceptance policy for new members.
“I don’t think credit unions have this big of a problem with fraud because membership is a bit more restrictive,” McDougall said. “Unlike regular banking institutions, not just anyone can come in and join us.”
The suspects in each of these cases have been caught and charges have been filed with the state attorneys office, said Klingebiel.
The penalties for this type of crime is severe, said Klingebiel.
“We are talking about felony level charges with these cases,” said Klingebiel. “A felony charge carries a fee of $1,000 and a prison sentence in excess of a year.”
Klingebiel said University Police are fortunate to have an officer who specialized in crimes of this sort.
“We have a detective on our staff who has a history of working with these types of crimes and has been really successful with them,” said Klingebiel.
Klingebiel said the prime motive for these suspects is the lure of easy money, but in some cases they could have been prevented.
“Part of the motivation for these criminals may be that people don’t pay attention to the money in their accounts,” said Klingebiel.
One of the precautions students and staff can take to prevent becoming a victim is to pay close attention to their accounts and keep accurate check book registers, said Klingebiel.
Klingebiel said it’s the individual’s responsibility to work with the institutions in preventing these crimes.
“It’s beyond what the banking institution can do,” said Klingebiel. “It’s depends more on what the individual can do to protect access to their money.