COURTESY OF 3VR SECURITY INC.
Bank of Hawaii has become the first financial institution in Hawaii to deploy equipment, above, that scans the faces of people entering its branches to see if they are known fraud or robbery suspects.
SMILE! You’re on facial-recognition camera
Bank of Hawaii deploys a system that scans the faces of people entering its branches
A fraudster walks into a Bank of Hawaii branch with the intention of passing a stolen or forged check.
But before the individual can reach the counter, a special surveillance system with facial recognition alerts security that a possible illegal transaction is about to go down.
Systems capable of identifying perpetrators through facial recognition aren't just for Homeland Security.
Banks across the country also are jumping aboard to update their security systems, including Bank of Hawaii, which says it is the first financial institution in the state to implement facial recognition.
Bank of Hawaii, which began testing the 3VR Searchable Surveillance System four or five months ago in one of its branches, disclosed yesterday it is using the facial recognition system that was pioneered by Las Vegas-based 3VR Security Inc.
The 3VR system, whose name stands for third-generation video recorder, indexes video from traditional surveillance cameras and then analyzes images by using facial biometrics to identify and potentially stop known fraud suspects before fraudulent transactions take place.
It also can stop bank robberies by repeat offenders even if the potential crooks are in a disguise, such as wearing a beard one day and donning a wig and shades the next time.
"As long as we get a good shot at a person's face, we can usually identify them," 3VR Security Chief Executive Steve Russell said.
Brian Ishikawa, vice president and director of corporate security at Bank of Hawaii, declined to reveal how much the bank loses annually to fraud or at how many of its 73 branches the facial recognition system is currently installed.
But Ishikawa, who also is chairman of the Hawaii Association of Financial Institution Security Officers, said that check fraud has been increasing in the state and nationwide.
He said the new system allows the bank's investigators to conduct their searches faster and more efficiently. Ishikawa also said it allows Bank of Hawaii to compare a known fraudster's image at that particular branch to other branches within the bank.
"This is especially useful in tracking the multiple fraudulent transaction attempts made by an ID theft perpetrator, and may assist in finding other fraudulent transactions," Ishi-kawa said.
Banks lose approximately $5 billion a year due to over-the-counter fraud, according to industry estimates.
The average bank branch loses more than $100,000 a year to check fraud, Russell said.
"For any financial institution it is a problem," Ishikawa said. "And it's just not the dollar losses that we lose, but it's also the confidence our customers may have in not just our institution but the banking institution as a whole. We strive to minimize that reputation risk."
Russell said that installation of the system in a branch can occur in less than a day and doesn't cost much more than the security video recorders currently in use.
"They just do a lot more," he said.
Russell said other financial institutions in Hawaii have shown interest in the 3VR system but that Bank of Hawaii is the first commercial business in the islands to implement it. He said the system, which is still being rolled out at Bank of Hawaii, is in a "significant" number of branches at this point.
Nationwide, Russell said 3VR has dozens of customers that include three of the top 10 banks. They also are used by retail organizations, as well as hospitality and gaming establishments.
"Just as it was very easy for banks 10 years ago to remove their old tape-based recorders and replace them with digital video recorders, so, too, it's just as easy to replace a security DVR with a 3VR," he said.
Ishikawa said the facial recognition system alerts security in "almost real time -- a couple seconds later" of known perpetrators.
"Conceptually, it allows an institution a lot more time to make a decision on a case-by-case basis of known suspects who've been problematic to our institutions," he said. "An ability to alert staff that a suspect has walked into our branch is a huge positive thing for us."
Russell said having the system capable of searching for the same fraudster across the bank's branch system is "exciting" because a bank could uncover multiple instances of fraud being perpetrated.
"All that information is very valuable when it comes to prosecuting a case against a fraudster," Russell said. "One bad check, a fraudster stays on the street. Ten bad checks, they're going to jail."