Phil Swan smiles from his desk in Gate City Bank’s fraud department

From Squad to Fraud

Former Police Detective Phil Swan Joins Gate City Bank to Fight Scams

It’s the first Monday of the month, which means it’s time for Phil Swan to hit the radio waves for KFGO’s recurring segment of Fargo’s Fraud Squad, sponsored by Gate City Bank. The show opens up with its familiar audio clip of Inner Circle's “Bad Boys,” and after being introduced by hosts Amy and JJ, Swan chimes in with the calm and informative voice that his audience has come to know well over the years.

Swan started the radio series before joining the bank, when he was a detective for the Fargo (ND) Police Department. On this Monday, listeners tune in to hear about preventing elder financial abuse, a topic that’s near and dear to Swan. It’s a problem that’s more common than people think, and he wants to equip listeners with the tools to prevent it.

“It’s definitely a difficult time in an elderly person’s life, when they get to the point where they can’t handle their own finances, so they have to depend on someone else,” Swan says. “Oftentimes, a person who engages in some form of elder financial abuse is close to and trusted by the vulnerable individual. This could be a family member or a caretaker.”

Swan has a good heart. He approaches his work with kindness, and he has a genuine interest in empathizing with others, even negative actors. He seeks to understand why people commit fraud in the first place and attempts to intervene in wrongful activity in a way that not only helps victims, but reforms criminals and encourages them to do the right thing in the future.

Throughout his career, Swan has learned that people tend to justify and rationalize the crimes they commit, and a “one-time thing” can easily spiral out of control. That’s why his position at Gate City Bank is so important – fighting fraud means creating a better way of life.

Creating a Better Way of Life.

Swan is married and has five kids. It’s in his nature to protect his family and serve his community – to be part of a “bigger cause.” For his nearly 10 years with the Fargo Police Department, he specialized in crisis intervention and de-escalation, especially for those suffering from mental illness. Swan eventually worked his way up to detective, which is when he “caught the bug” for fighting financial crime.

“Whenever you have someone who’s going through a difficult time in their life, it’s important to build rapport with them in an attempt to find understanding and help them work through the struggle,” Swan says. “I always loved working to stop financial crime because it was a challenge. It was very different than other types of crime.”

Swan joined Gate City Bank for a couple of reasons: First, he saw an amazing opportunity to continue helping people in a way that matched his unique skillset. Second, after a fellow police officer passed away in the line of duty, Gate City Bank donated top-of-the-line ballistic helmets to help protect police.

That spoke volumes.

“Gate City Bank has had a special place in my heart ever since then,” Swan says. “Living through the loss of a fellow police officer, it was so amazing to see Gate City Bank and the community step up and show support. ‘For a Better Way of Life®’ isn’t just lip service. The bank makes every effort to show it cares.”

Building the Dream Team.

Swan likes hockey. He especially likes hockey analogies.

“The best hockey goalie will probably block 90% of shots, but they’ll let 10% of shots in the goal,” he says. “As a fraud department, we know that we can’t stop all fraud from getting in, but we can play a huge part in blocking it. Our fraud department is like that goalie. Together, we’re a good team.”

For Swan and the three investigators who report to him, the game plan is to help customers when they’ve fallen victim to fraud, while being proactive and educating them so they don’t experience fraud in the first place.

The job isn’t always easy, but when it comes to helping other people, it’s worth it. Swan says Gate City Bank is very different than other banks – especially bigger ones. Gate City Bank provides a caring, hometown feel that makes all the difference.

“A lot of the bigger national banks tend to be hands-off, leaving customers to figure things out on their own,” Swan says. “We take that time to coach our customers and set them on the right path.”

Gate City Bank’s fraud software is robust, capable of tracking unusual activity patterns and trends. Having gut instinct and team members on the ground helps.

“Team members at the branches do a great job of letting us know if something just doesn’t seem right,” Swan says. “Oftentimes, they’re our first line of defense.”

While some customers are adamant that what they’re doing is legit and not a scam, it’s usually clear to Swan and his team when fraud is present. Recently, they’ve seen an increase in money mules and romance scams. People receive stolen funds but don’t know they’re stolen, then are socially engineered to move the money.

“Our customers have such big hearts,” Swan says. “Unfortunately, fraudsters prey on that.”

Embracing a Culture of Community Support.

Community means everything to Gate City Bank, which means everything to Swan. The bank encourages team members to volunteer on company time and offers monetary support for causes that team members are passionate about.

“I sit on the Combined Community Response Initiative for Elder Abuse (CCRIEA) board,” Swan says. “Gate City Bank has been a driving force behind that, making a sizeable donation and helping to sponsor upcoming events.”

The bank also supports a youth curling league, which Swan has helped coach for years.

“Gate City Bank doesn’t hesitate when it comes to showing team members and community members that it cares about them,” he says. “Similar to law enforcement, the bank makes you feel like family. It takes care of team members and their loved ones.”

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