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Keep holidays merry, avoid being hacked with tips from CUNA

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WASHINGTON (12/23/14)--To help consumers avoid fraud this holiday season, and every season, the Credit Union National Association released a list of helpful tips to keep their personal information out of the hands of criminals.
"With the immense number of data breaches that occurred at retailers in 2014, and a grim forecast for 2015, it's essential to arm consumers with tips they need to protect themselves," said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. "Knowing how to protect yourself from hackers, and what to do if you get hacked, can help you keep your hard-earned money and give you peace of mind."
CUNA's contains a list of helpful ways for consumers to remain vigilant and protect their personal data when shopping in retail stores and online, including:
  • Don't respond to email, texts or telephone calls asking for personal or financial information;
  • Frequently review account activity and immediately report unauthorized transactions;
  • Place an initial fraud alert with credit bureaus if fraud has occurred;
  • Enroll and opt-in for transaction monitoring;
  • Use card on/off switches (if available); and
  • Enroll in Verified by VISA/MasterCard Secure Code.
In 2014 there have been more than 744 data security breaches, a 24.8% increase over 2013 which saw 596 breaches. In fact, a recent poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that nearly half of all Americans have been notified by a credit card company, financial institution or retailer that their credit card information had possibly been stolen as part of a data breach.

Staples announced just last week that it has suffered a breach that affected 1.16 million customers. In the case of a data breach at a retailer such as Staples, credit unions are limited by law in disclosing many of the circumstances of the breach and often are not able to disclose the merchant responsible--yet the credit union is left to clean up the mess when a retail data breach occurs by informing its members of the breach, protecting their members from fraudulent charges and reissuing new credit and debit cards.
"Arming consumers with tips to protect themselves is helpful, but what's necessary to change the state of consumer protection is a change in policy," said Nussle. "Merchants are not subject to the same federal data protection standards as financial institutions, making them more susceptible to attacks.

"The best course of action to reduce data breaches would be for Congress to establish federal data-protection standards for retailers that are equal to financial institutions under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act," he said.

Holiday spirit strong with CUs' commitment to communities

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MADISON, Wis. (12/23/14)--Credit unions are known for the "people-helping-people" philosophy that they live all year long. The holiday season is particularly imbued with a sense of giving as credit unions collect toys, distribute food and otherwise care for those in need.

Click for slideshow IBM Southeast Employees' FCU, Delray Beach, Fla., with $862 million in assets, hosted the 45th annual Christmas party for the Georgia Head Start Association. (IBM Southeast Employees' FCU Photo)
The efforts listed below are just a small representation of the many ways credit unions celebrate the season with giving.
  • For the third year in a row, $12 million-asset North East (Pa.) Welch FCU hosted a Project Love Angel Tree in its main office. More than 400 tags that had a child's name, clothing size and gift ideas were distributed as part of the project that brought donations from credit union employees and members alike (Life is a Highway Dec. 16);
  • Throughout the year, employees of Gulf Coast Educators FCU, Pasadena, Texas, with $517 million in assets, hold jeans days where those who donate $5 can dress in denim at work (Leaguer Dec. 8). The fund raised more than $7,500 overall, and staff allocated $3,500 to purchase toys this holiday season;
  • During December, Ocean Communities FCU, Biddeford, Maine, will collect new or gently used laptops and iPads for Grahamtastic Connection, a nonprofit that provides free technology to children with cancer and other serious illnesses ( Dec. 11). High school students from Sanford and Westbrook will refurbish the donated computers. The $154 million-asset credit union also donated $1,000, which will allow Grahamtastic Connection to purchase a new iPad and one year of Internet access for a local child;
  • FAA CU, Oklahoma City, with $563 million in assets, fulfilled the Christmas lists of 10 teens in the Youth Services for Oklahoma County's Supporting Kids in Independent Living (SKIL) program (Leaguer Dec. 9). President/CEO Steve Rasmussen said he is impressed with the staff's generosity each year. "They see the need, and they continue to open their hearts to these young adults facing issues no teen should have to face," he said. The SKIL program supports teens who are homeless through no fault of their own and who are dedicated to completing high school and furthering their education;
  • Peach State FCU, Lawrenceville, Ga., with $265 million in assets, collected Toys for Tots at each of its 12 branches. "Through our seven-county footprint, we were able to collect a truckload full of toys that will help make the holiday season a little brighter for less fortunate children in the community," said President/CEO Marshall Boutwell;
  • In Albany, N.Y., Colonie Senior Service Centers and Capital Communications FCU, with $1 billion in assets, will come together to help more than 200 seniors during the holiday. The program supports elderly individuals to maintain their independence and live safely on their own;
  • Icon CU, Boise, Idaho, with $169 million in assets, and Arsenal CU, Arnold, Mo., with $201 million in assets, focused on keeping people warm. Arsenal CU purchased and donated new hats, gloves and mittens. Icon CU is collecting socks for its fifth annual Warm Hearts, Toasty Toes drive, which has collected more than 7,000 pairs for local charities (Gem Dec. 1);
  • Four-legged friends aren't forgotten during the holiday season thanks to $6.5 billion-asset San Diego County CU. Its goal is to raise $10,000 by Dec. 31 for the San Diego Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (San Diego Union-Tribune Dec. 22); and
  • Who needs reindeer and a sleigh when you have a cargo bike? USAgencies CU, Portland, Ore., with $74 million in assets, collected more than 360 toys--five times its past amount--for the annual KGW Great Toy Drive. Once collected, the toys were loaded into Portland Pedal Power cargo bikes to be delivered in an eco-friendly, community-centric style (Anthem Dec. 19).

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Okla. CU board approves 50% cut in 2015 assessments

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (12/23/14)--The Oklahoma State Credit Union Board approved a 50% discount in assessments collected from Oklahoma state-chartered credit unions with assets of $100 million or less, and a 30% discount for those with more than $100 million in assets.
State Bank Commissioner Mick Thompson presented a proposed budget to the board that reflected how the department can continue its efficient operations even with the reduction in assessments, the Cornerstone Credit Union League reported (Leaguer Dec. 22). This is the third year in a row that the board approved reduced assessment rates for state-chartered credit unions. In 2012 and 2013, assessments were discounted by 15% and 10, respectively.
"These discounts are intended to reflect increased efficiencies that the department has achieved as well as a reduction in the regulatory burden on state-chartered credit unions," Thompson said. "The savings experienced by credit unions can be redirected toward service to their members."
Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb said of the decision: "This is clearly good news for Oklahoma's state-chartered credit unions. I compliment Commissioner Thompson for working with credit unions in an effort to identify and reduce redundancies in the examination process. These efforts save our credit unions both time and money."

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Mo. CDFI training offers inspiration

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (12/23/14)--During a roundtable and training for all community development financial institution-certified (CDFI) credit unions in the state of Missouri, participants shared ideas that left them inspired and looking toward a bright future.

On Dec. 4-5, the Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation and Missouri Credit Union Association hosted a roundtable for all community development financial institution-certified credit unions in the state of Missouri. (Missouri Credit Union Association Photo)
The Dec. 4-5 session was hosted by the Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation (MCUCF) and Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) and facilitated by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. The event was held at MCUA's offices in Jefferson City, Mo.

Representatives from 11 CDFI-certified credit unions attended the roundtable. Participants received in-depth training in topics such as low-income designation, leveraging CDFI certification, developing CDFI strategies, writing competitive grants and building community partnerships (Missouri Difference Dec. 15).

Missouri has 27 credit unions that have attained CDFI certification, which makes Missouri the state with the most CDFI-certified credit unions. In the past two years alone, these CDFIs have received more than $7 million in U.S. Treasury grants. These certifications and grants help build the capacity of credit unions to serve moderate- to low-income people and distressed communities lacking the access to credit and financial services.

The Missouri CDFI program is an initiative of MCUCF, which provides training resources and opportunities to all Missouri credit unions.

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Branches remain vital: Mercator Research

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BOSTON (12/23/14)--Despite advancements in mobile banking technology and other innovations in the financial services industry, physical branches remain important, according to a new report from Mercator Advisory Group.

The report, called "The Evolving Branch Banking Strategy," covers the importance of face-to-face communication when discussing financial services and products that, at times, for members and consumers can be complicated.

Conversations centering on subjects such as loans, time deposits and investments, the report argues, are often better to have in person.

"Even while many banks, credit unions and other financial institutions are right-sizing or otherwise reconfiguring their branches, most realize that in-person service is still important to their customers and members," said Ed O'Brien, author of the report and director of Mercator Advisory Group's banking channels advisory service.

Highlights of the report include:
  • The effort by credit unions and banks to create branches that meet and exceed member/customer needs by balancing the desire for in-person expertise with around-the-clock access to digital solutions;
  • A new branch strategy brought about because of the recent shift by financial institutions to reduce the number of branches they operate;
  • New variations in branch layouts, including open designs with dedicated areas for traditional transactions; self- and assisted-service interaction; private areas for advice-based services; and teller automation; and
  • Changes in the fundamental roles of tellers and other staff members through expanded sales and service training aimed at promoting cross- and up-sell efforts and improving overall member/customer satisfaction.

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CUs honor fallen soldiers with wreaths

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WOODBRIDGE, Va., and NAPERVILLE, Ill. (12/23/14)--To honor servicemembers and their sacrifices for this country, a number of credit unions in Illinois and one in Virginia donated their time and money to lay wreaths at the gravesites of military veterans this holiday season.

Wreaths placed at the gravesites of servicemembers at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. (Illinois Credit Union League Photo)
Employees and family members of Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va., with $313 million in assets, participated in a day coordinated by the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America where citizens placed wreaths at various national cemeteries.

The Belvoir group set wreaths at the graves of soldiers buried in Quantico National Cemetery.

"The ceremony was touching and the displayed respect from the crowd was moving," said Tisha Wallace, chief operations officer for Belvoir FCU. "There were many silent tears for those fallen and prayers going out for those currently serving our country."

In all, the group laid more than 50 wreaths, as part of an event that included hundreds of participants who collectively laid 1,500 wreaths at the cemetery on the day. 

This was the third year the credit union participated in the event. Wreaths Across America's mission is to one day place a wreath at every grave in Arlington National Cemetery and all other national cemeteries.

The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) also initiated a new effort this year to raise money for Wreaths Across America.

The effort proved fruitful, as nearly $3,000 was raised by Illinois credit unions to lay wreaths at veterans' graves in Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Credit unions, staff members and employees raised more than $1,900 to purchase 193 wreaths that were placed at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., and a number of individuals representing the credit union movement in Illinois volunteered at the wreath-laying event last week.

LSC, ICUL's service organization, provided an additional $1,000 for wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery.

The coordinated effort to encourage credit unions and their members to participate in the wreath fundraising event was the first activity led by ICUL's recently formed Community Outreach Committee.

The committee was created due the strong desire by league staff members to make a difference in their communities, ICUL said. 

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Deadline extended to Jan. 9 for Crash the GAC applications

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MADISON, Wis. (12/23/14)--The deadline has been extended an extra week to Jan. 9 for those interested in applying for Crash the GAC.
The program offers young credit union professionals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia an opportunity to experience the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference in a way like no other.
CUNA and The Cooperative Trust have received applications from 39 states and the District of Columbia, with a goal of having a crasher from every state. Each crasher receives a scholarship for full conference registration, courtesy of CUNA, for the March 8-12 event in Washington, D.C. All other costs are the responsibility of the attendee and their credit union.
Some state credit union leagues are providing additional travel support for crashers. Interested applicants can check the website for more information.
The 11 states currently without applicants are: Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

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CUNA offices closed through Friday, News Now returns Monday

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WASHINGTON, D.C., and MADISON, Wis. (12/23/14)--The Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices of the Credit Union National Association will be closed Wednesday through Friday, reopening on Monday, Dec. 29.
News Now will not be published while the offices are closed, but it will be published Monday.

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News Now LiveWire
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Don't get hacked during the holidays-use these tips from @CUNA #StoptheDataBreaches
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