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CUNA movement support Haitian relief effort

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (1/15/10)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and others in the credit union movement have begun rallying around the relief efforts to help Haiti's 175 credit unions, their employees and volunteers, and their members impacted by Tuesday's deadly earthquake. As of Thursday afternoon, about 24 hours after the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions and the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) activated their sites for collecting donations, more than $83,570 combined had been contributed from the credit union movement. Valerie Breunig, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation noted that it had pledges/receipts for almost $40,000 by mid-afternoon Thursday. NCUF, which is collecting funds from U.S. credit unions through the CUAid.coop website, had collected $43,570. CUNA announced Thursday it had contributed $20,000 through the "CUAid.coop" program, the national online giving center for credit unions, to assist credit union employees, volunteers and members in Haiti. All CUAid.coop contributions are directed by NCUF's Disaster Relief Fund. CUNA made the contribution in conjunction with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), which had 16 project team members working on its microfinancing project in Haiti. They are safe but struggling with lack of housing and their building was demolished (See related story, "We survived. The building has not," in today's News Now for eyewitness accounts.) "On behalf of the American credit union movement, CUNA is making this contribution to help the Haitian movement assist its members and its country to endure this catastrophe," said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica. "We encourage other U.S. credit unions and organizations to link to CUAid.coop to offer their own employees and members a donation option to help their fellow credit union employees and members in the disaster area. The help is greatly needed," Mica added. Mica noted that the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) authorized a $7,500 contribution through CUAid.coop. NCUF contributed $10,000 to the efforts, said Jill Stevenson of NCUF's marketing and communciations staff. Meanwhile, leagues in various states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Louisiana for starters, were appealing to their members to assist their colleagues in Haiti. Haiti's 175 credit unions serve more than 400,000 members, according to WOCCU. The United Nations FCU (UNFCU), based in New York, has more than 500 members in Haiti and told News Now Thursday it continues to wait for information about its members there. The United Nations said Thursday hat 16 U.N. peacekeepers were killed and more than 140 U.N. employees were missing in the rubble (The New York Times Jan. 14). Its headquarters downtown in Port-au-Prince and operations at the Christopher Hotel on the mountainside were demolished. According to the International Red Cross, up to three million people have been affected, and the death toll is feared to be in the thousands. Many victims are sleeping in the streets. All donations made via CUAid.coop will be forwarded to credit union organizations in affected areas through NCUF, which is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. For more information, U.S. credit unions should go to CUAid.coop and click on "Donate Now."

Comedian Maher on Move Your Money bandwagon

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LOS ANGELES (1/15/10)--Comedian Bill Maher, saying consumers are stuck in "an abusive relationship" with their banks, has jumped on the "Move Your Money" bandwagon started by Huffington Post last week. The campaign urges consumers to move their money from big banks to credit unions and community banks. Maher's article, "Stop the Abuse: It's Time to Break Up With Your Big Bank," on gather.com notes that the "too big to fail" banks are convinced "they can get away with anything--because they always have." But, he says, consumers "don't have to put up with this nonsense." He suggested moving money "out of these big banks and put them into smaller, local, community banks and credit unions that are more likely to see you as a person, not as an account number...and also to reinvest in the community where they are." The article and a video are also posted on the Huffington Post website. Last week the Post's "Move Your Money" campaign included an article by Credit Union National Association President/CEO Dan Mica and also a link to CUNA's credit union locator at creditunion.coop (News Now Jan. 8). To read Maher's item, use the link.

Mondays a holiday CUNA closed no INews NowI

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (1/15/10)--The Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices of the Credit Union National Association will be closed Monday, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. CUNA will re-open on Tuesday. News Now will not publish a Monday edition but will resume regular publication on Tuesday.

CUISPA alerts CUs to new-online-account loan frauds

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WASHINGTON (1/15/10)--The Credit Union Information Security Professionals Association (CUISPA) is warning credit unions to be cautious of personal loan applications from accounts opened online. A fraud ring has attempted scams at dozens of credit unions nationwide, in which persons with Eastern European names--possibly Russian immigrants from Armenia--are opening accounts through online account-opening systems to obtain personal loans, auto loans, credit cards and/or educational loans. Once the loans are obtained, they default with either no first payment or after a few minimum payments. They are also performing credit card “bust outs”--including mailing fraudulent/nonsufficient funds checks to use the additional credit immediately available when the check is received. The scam appears to be coordinated among a group of individuals in Eastern Europe. Loans are made against cars purchased, documents notarized and tax returns prepared all in various Eastern European names. CUISPA also warned that several of the identified names have had credit inquiries from known credit unions listed on their credit reports. Of note--the persons applying are true persons--their personal information checks out. They also claim to be U.S. citizens, but may not speak English or have a Social Security number issued within the past few years. They answer the “U.S. Citizen?” question on loan applications, with a “yes” to secure the loan. Usually, the person’s last name ends with a “yan” (for example: Gahzaryan, Arshakyan). Individuals may use an interpreter when calling, or respond only via e-mail. Most live in the Los Angeles area: Van Nuys, West Hollywood, Glendale or Pasadena, Calif. Some live in Las Vegas. Missouri and Colorado also are being reported as possible problem areas, said CUISPA. Some fraudsters are legitimately employed, while others may claim to work for a company that is a paper entity. The U.S. Secret Service is forming an Armenian/Russian Mob Task force. At this point, it is collecting data to determine if the task force has enough to warrant a substantial case. About two dozen credit unions have confirmed cases of similar activity incurring losses. All cases are being referred to the Secret Service. CUISPA strongly encourages credit unions to file suspicious activity reports and inform CUISPA to assist the Secret Service in developing the case. For more information, use the link.

Urge members to fill out Census questionnaires

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WASHINGTON (1/15/10)--The U.S. Census Bureau wants credit unions to know that data collected from the census and the American Community Survey will affect them because the census helps determine the distribution of federal funds. The bureau is encouraging credit unions to urge their members fill out the questionnaires. The Census 2010 questionnaires--which have 10 questions--will be mailed to households in March. A small percentage of questionnaires will be given at a different time to households in rural or remote areas. Some households also will receive the American Community Survey, which has replaced what had been known as the “long form.” Since 2005, the American Community Survey is the sample survey that has been sent out to roughly 1% of households. The American Community Survey asks for information about commuting patterns and occupations. The data can “define market areas for describing lending practices and effects of bank mergers,” said the U.S. Census Bureau. There are several ways census data are used that pertain to credit unions:
* Decision-making at all levels of government; * Attracting new businesses to state and local areas; * Forecasting future housing needs for all segments of the population; * Developing rural areas; * Planning investments and evaluating financial risk; * Publishing economic and statistical reports about the U.S. and its people; * Spotting trends in the economic well-being of the nation; * Establishing fair market rents and enforcing lending practices; * Understanding labor supply; * Making business decisions; * Understanding consumer needs; and * Determining areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans.
The census is the largest domestic undertaking for the U.S. government, and helps determine the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds annually, said the Census Bureau. State Employees’ CU (SECU), Raleigh, said it will use media outlets to educate members on the census in the coming months. It is urging its members to “stand up and be counted” in the Census. “With more than $400 billion allocated to states and communities each year based in part on census data, it is crucial that all North Carolinians understand the benefits of participation to the state and its citizens,” said SECU. SECU has 1.5 million members and $18 billion in assets. For more information, use the links.

IMSNI says build credit ... with CU loan

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NEW YORK (1/15/10)--One of the best ways for consumers to build or rebuild credit scores is to get a share-secured loan from a credit union, according to MSN.com (Jan. 14). Credit Union National Association (CUNA) staff advised MSN on why consumers should get a loan from a credit union. The article, titled, “Build Credit Without Credit Cards,” by Liz Pulliam Weston, mentions that Susan Tiffany, CUNA director of consumer publications, says credit union loans may be easier to get than bank loans because credit unions often are willing to look beyond just a consumer’s credit scores. “[Credit unions] don’t treat credit scores as the only source of information about you,” Tiffany told MSN. “They’re looking for ways to say yes. Are you responsible with your checking account? Are you demonstrating that you’re trying to be a regular saver? Those behaviors help.” To read the article, use the link.

We survived. The building has not--WOCCU Haiti staff

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PETIONVILLE, Haiti (1/15/10)--"We survived. The building has not." That's the start of a dispatch from the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU's) team leader for its project in Haiti. WOCCU last July launched a program in Haiti with funding from the U.S. Agency for
Click to view larger image Rubble inPort-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. (Photo by Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Image, provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
International Development. The Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program works across the financial sector to bring savings, credit and remittance-linked products to people living in poverty in underserved areas of the country. WOCCU's 16-member team, under the leadership of Greta Greathouse, was at work for less than six months when the devastating earthquake struck Tuesday just south of Port-au-Prince. WOCCU has begun receiving sporadic reports from the field, including this e-mail from Greathouse: "We survived. The building has not. No one was injured in its evacuation. [The building] will not be repairable. Part of [the] team was downtown with me for a meeting. We had just left when [the earthquake] happened. "Because of the streets being blocked with rubble/people/abandoned cars and downed power lines, we decided to abandon our cars and walk back to the offices. Many of the staff had worked late, fled the building and were in the parking lot. We spent the night there. "Most team members were able to contact their families last night or this morning. We have limited power, Internet and phones, so communication is difficult. "My house is probably totally destroyed, given its proximity to the [Hotel] Montana and what happened on that mountainside. We are going to try to climb up to see later today. There's no vehicular access since the road is entirely blocked with rubble and boulders from the collapse of the Montana and other buildings. I am staying with a colleague who lives in a safe area. No water, but he has limited electricity." WOCCU will provide daily dispatches from the Haiti team so long as communications work. Here's how to support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's credit unions and their members: Make payments via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705, USA

Donations may be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org /give. For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that your donation is for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions can also support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid system at www.CUAid.coop.

Mass. league warns CUs about serial robber

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BOSTON (1/15/10)--The Massachusetts Bank Robbery Task Force asked the Massachusetts Credit Union League to alert credit unions about a series of credit union and bank robberies perpetrated by a single individual in the greater Boston area since Oct. 29. The task force comprises elements of the Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police and police forces in surrounding cities, said the league (e-Weekly Jan. 13). During the past two months, nearly 20 robberies were perpetrated by the individual. On Jan. 8, he robbed a credit union in Cambridge. The league was told that a disproportionate number of the institutions robbed by the individual have been credit unions. The task force believes he may be targeting credit unions. The league sent the notice to its entire membership statewide. To date, the robber's activities appear to be limited to the area in and around greater Boston.

CU System briefs (01/14/2010)

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* SAN DIMAS, Calif. (1/15/10)--CLARIFICATION--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC)’s main telephone line is: 888-372-2669 or 909-753-1200. Network support can be reached at 800-509-1087 or 909-753-1201. The fax number is 909-394-3521. FSCC announced that it will be relocating its headquarters today to Ontario, Calif., with a new address: 2855 East Guasti Road, Suite 202, Ontario, Calif. 91761-1249 ... * PALATINE, Ill. (1/15/10)--The $5 million asset Maine Township Schools CU (MTSCU), Park Ridge, Ill., has merged into the $128 million asset Premier CU, Palatine, Ill. The merger increases products and services available for MTSCU members and creates growth opportunities for Premier CU, the credit unions said in a press release. MTSCU was chartered in 1959 to serve local school district employees and families. It served more than 1,000 members. Premier, chartered as a schools credit union in 1961, serves more than 100 schools, plus several colleges, local municipalities and select employee groups ... * NEENAH, Wis. (1/15/10)--The marketing team at Evergreen CU in Neenah, Wis., has
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found a different way to promote the $26 million asset credit union's "Winter Fun is Financed Here" campaign: Snow writing. Armed with spritzer bottles filled with food coloring and water, the team used the snow banks around the credit union as canvasses for advertising messages. "We found a creative way to use what was right in front of us to get our marketing messages out there," said Debbie Bruley, vice president-operations. "Difficult economic times sometimes present really cool opportunities to think outside the box, and snow writing is a great team-building experience." (Photo provided by Evergreen CU) ... * NORWOOD, Ohio (1/15/10)--Derrick Kidd, 37, of Mount Auburn, Ohio, is being held under $400,000 bail by police in connection with three robberies at Wright-Patt CU's Norwood, Ohio, branch. Kidd was arrested Tuesday after a struggle with a uniformed, off-duty deputy inside and outside the credit union. The suspect entered the credit union and ignored the deputy's request to remove his cap, then tired to rob a teller, said police. The teller shouted to the deputy, "Hey, this is our guy," and the deputy and Kidd struggled in the credit union and outside, where Kidd lost his coat and his shirt and ran. He was arrested a block away. Kidd was released from prison in October for two prior bank robbery convictions and was on parole (The Cincinnati Enquirer Jan. 14) ... * HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/15/10)--John Marisic, longtime board member of Pennsylvania State Employees CU (PSECU), died Jan. 5 in Lebanon, Pa., according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA). Marisic was a former member of PCUA's Governmental Affairs Committee and an advocate for credit union issues with elected officials. He was vice chairman of the credit union's board. A Celebration of Life service will be held Sunday at the Mt. Gretna (Pa.) Fire Co. ...

Perimeter ranks malware top of 10 info security threats

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MILFORD, Conn. (1/15/10)--Perimeter E-Security, a CUNA Strategic Service and provider of information security services, has released its Top 10 Information Security Threats for 2010. “It is vital for companies to understand what they can do to best protect their systems and information,” said Kevin Prince, Perimeter chief technology officer. Perimeter’s top 10 threats are:
* Malware, which can be installed on systems through client-side software vulnerabilities. Browsers are a top target for vulnerabilities, Perimeter said. Malware was the second-highest ranked threat last year. For the first time, cybercrime exceeded drug trafficking, reported the FBI in 2009. * Malicious insiders. Many disgruntled and desperate employees have tried to exploit their employers or former employers. There is no way to completely eliminate the threat of malicious insiders, but good security policies can reduce incidents. * Exploited vulnerabilities, which lead to worms, viruses, malware and other attacks. Organizations need to improve their patch management, Perimeter said. * Careless employees. They can be categorized as careless or untrained; employees that are duped or fall prey to social engineering attacks; or malicious employees. Organizations should provide policies, procedures, training and technology to reduce threats generated by careless employees. * Mobile devices. Worms and other malware specifically target these devices and enlist them as botnets to steal data. Laptops are main culprits. Many are stolen every year and have sensitive data that would require public disclosure if there’s a data breach. * Social networking. Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter can be breeding grounds for SPAM, scams, scareware and other attacks. Personal safety also can be an issue, because the information individuals post on the site can be a “stalker’s dream come true,” Perimeter said. * Social engineering attacks, such as phishing. Beginning this year, domain names will be expanded to include Japanese, Arabic, Hindi and Greek characters, which will make it more difficult for users to determine if a domain is legitimate. * Zero-Day exploits, which occur when an attacker can compromise a system on a known vulnerability but no patch or fix exists. * Cloud computing Internet-based security threats. Many applications call for forced encryption to access “in the cloud” services. As cloud computing becomes more popular, security will be an issue. “Cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. * Cyberespionage. Most incidents so far have involved government bodies and agencies, and haven’t been a threat to individual organizations. But because cyberespionage has large implications for government, it must be closely monitored.
In most cases, companies will have to implement new technology to prepare for threats. CUNA Strategic Services will offer a webinar, “Detect and Protect: Resolve to Fight Cyber Threats in 2010,” Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. CST. It features a panel of security experts, including Perimeter.

CO-OP extends EFT agreement with STAR Network

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ATLANTA and RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (1/15/10)--CO-OP Financial Services has extended its electronic funds transfer (EFT) agreement with First Data Corp.’s STAR Network. CO-OP provides STAR Network access to more than 600 credit unions. CO-OP has worked with STAR since 1985. STAR has more than two million retail and ATM locations. CO-OP also uses First Data for processing services for reloadable prepaid cards. Terms of the agreement remain confidential. CO-OP, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., offers 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs to participating credit union members. First Data, Atlanta, provides electronic payment solutions.

California league names two unsung heroes

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ONTARIO, Calif. (1/15/10)--The California Credit Union League
Click to view larger image Robin Lentz (left), CEO of Cabrillo CU in San Diego, received the Unsung Hero Award from Jeanine Dodman, San Diego/Imperial Valley chapter president.
Click to view larger image Vincent Rojas (center) received the Unsung Hero Award from Kern Schools FCU staffers Barbara Irle (left) and Shari Butler. Rojas served as CEO of Kern Schools FCU until his retirement last year. (Photos provided by the California Credit Union League)
honored two credit union representatives with Unsung Heroes Awards. The award honors individuals in the industry with 20 years of service. The league honored Robin Lentz, CEO of Cabrillo CU, San Diego, and Vincent Rojas Jr., former CEO of Kern Schools FCU, Bakersfield. League Historical Preservation Committee member Al George and San Diego/Imperial Valley Chapter President Jeanine Dodman presented Lentz with the award during a chapter meeting in December. Kern Schools FCU leaders and staff presented Rojas with his award. Lentz has led her credit union since 1979. Under her leadership, the credit union has added $160 million in assets and received awards. She also has been active in the San Diego Chapter, serving twice as its president, and in Credit Unions for Kids. Rojas served as CEO of Kern Schools from 1989 until his retirement last year. He also was a member of the Credit Union Executives Society and served on the board of trustees of Western CUNA Management School.

CUNA Mutual campaign nets 25650 for NCUF leagues

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MADISON, Wis. (1/15/10)--CUNA Mutual Group’s Sign of Commitment campaign made nearly 50 stops nationwide in 2009, resulting in a donations of $25,650 to the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and state credit union leagues.
Click to view larger image CUNA Mutual Group presented the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) with a $5,700 check from its “TRUE” campaign, raising the total contribution for all of 2009 to $25,650 in support of credit union industry causes. From left, are: Christopher Roe, senior vice president, Corporate/Legislative Affairs, CUNA Mutual; Tom Decker, NCUF Development Educators program; Dale Tomalin, brand strategy leader, CUNA Mutual; and Frank Beres, senior marketing strategist, CUNA Mutual. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
The campaign encouraged credit union supporters to add their signature on a display board as a public commitment to the credit union movement. CUNA Mutual contributed money for each signature. The effort attracted 9,530 signatures, including signatures from more than 1,400 CUNA Mutual employees. CUNA Mutual donated $11,400 to the NCUF and $14,250 to state league foundations. “The sign traveled to credit union events all over the nation, and it was wonderful to see the reaction and enthusiasm of credit union supporters who eagerly grabbed a pen to write their name on the sign,” said Christopher Roe, CUNA Mutual senior vice president of corporate and legislative affairs. CUNA Mutual kicked off its “TRUE Commitment” campaign at the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., in February 2009. The Sign of Commitment was featured at 50 other credit union events, including CUNA’s annual America’s Credit Union Conference, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions’ annual conference, 45 league annual meetings and CUNA Mutual’s signing day in April. The contribution will provide funding for NCUF’s Credit Union Development Educators Program.