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Media continue reporting CUs efforts on strength

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/08)--Credit unions and leagues continue to hammer home the message that credit unions are safe and sound, and ready to lend while loans elsewhere are hard to come by. Media in a number of states have picked up that message. In the past week, the message has appeared in media in Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania The Columbus Dispatch (Oct. 26) reported that bank loan applicants are made to jump through series of flaming hoops to get a loan, but BMI FCU, Dublin, Ohio, has money to lend. BMI reported its mortgage loans have gone up 53% the past year. Ohio Credit Union League spokesman Patrick Harris noted that BMI is the rule, not the exception. Ohio's credit unions loaned $11.3 billion during the 12 months before June 30, up from $600 million the previous year. The Dallas Morning News' "Dollar Wise" column reassured a consumer who expressed concern about bank failures (Oct. 27). It pointed out that depositors in banks and credit unions have federal insurance on their accounts. The column also mentioned credit unions' National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) and the National Credit Union Administration three times. The Alamo Chapter of Credit Unions announced it will sponsor a Financial Forum in a town hall format Friday morning on television station KENS 5 "Great Day SA," where chapter President Robert Williamson will kick off the show explaining misconceptions about credit unions and their share insurance fund. Credit Union Association of New York CEO William J. Mellin authored an op-ed piece in Times Union (Oct. 16) that reassured readers about credit unions' safety. That same day, another article featured Sunmark FCU, Latham, and SEFCU, Albany, saying credit unions didn't participate in risky, speculative lending that fueled the credit crunch. It mentioned NCUSIF's role in protecting deposits of credit unions. The Tomah (Wis.) Journal (Oct. 26) featured a letter on safety of credit union deposits from John Laufenberg, president/CEO of Tomah Area CU; Donna Evans, branch manager, RIA FCU; and Colleen Woggon, CEO, Oakdale CU. Credit unions in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina have successfully launched a cooperative ad campaign in seven local newspapers, reported the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update Oct. 23). The four-week campaign launched on Oct. 19 focuses on the NCUSIF. In Pennsylvania, Tom Iacona of the Patriot FCU, Chambersburg, was interviewed for an article in Public Opinion about vehicle sales in Franklin County during the economic slowdown. He noted the credit crunch has been somewhat beneficial to the credit union with competitive interest rates on loans and direct financing. And the Pottsville Republican & Herald published a letter from Raylene Thompson, board president of Schuykill FCU, Pottsville, explaining credit unions exist to serve their members. It also promoted safety and soundness of credit unions (Life is a Highway Oct. 22).

Not marketing to Hispanics Better check population stats

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/08)--Still haven't begun outreach efforts to attract Hispanics in your area to your credit union? These statistics might make you change your mind. Fertility has surpassed immigration as the driving factor in the Hispanic population growth in the U.S., according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released on Thursday. The center analyzed the Census Bureau's 2007 county population estimates, as well as the 1900 and 2000 county population tallies from the Decennial Censuses, it said (LoneStar Leaguer Oct. 27). The Hispanic population has increased by 10.2 million since 2000, with six million the result of births in the U.S. That outnumbers the 4.2 million growth due to immigration, says the center. Although Hispanic population increased during the 1990s, that population's growth accounted for less than 40% of the nation's total population increase. That trend is now reversed. As of mid-2007, Hispanics accounted for 15.1% of the total U.S. population. Although the dispersion of Hispanics in the most recent counts has been skewed more to counties in the West and Northeast, the South accounted for a greater share of overall Hispanic population growth than any other region in the new century, says Pew. Hispanic population growth is also concentrating in metropolitan areas. Credit unions interested in serving Hispanics have resources available to them from the Credit Union National Association. Use the resource link to find out more.

Another round of robo-call scams hit CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/08)--Credit unions in four states are reporting members and nonmembers have been hit with another round of e-mails and "robo-call" scams, aimed at tricking consumers out of their personal financial information. Among the reports:
* In Green Bay, Wis., Harbor CU received hundreds of phone calls from members Saturday morning saying they had received phone calls between 10 p.m. and midnight Friday from an automated dialer. The robo-calls said their account numbers had been compromised and asked them to enter a credit or debit card number and their personal identification number (PIN). (WBAY.com Oct. 25 and Green Bay Press Gazette Oct. 27). President Mike DeGrand told local media that the timing of the calls should be a clue--financial institutions don't call that late and financial institutions already have the card information. The Brown County Sheriff's Department also received dozens of complaints and said there has been a rash of phone scams reported recently. * In Morris, Ill., police received calls on Oct. 20 from Morris Community CU and from several local residents that a telephone scam was claiming the individuals' credit union account had been frozen and that account information was needed to reactivate the account. A similar set of calls targeting the $23.8 million asset credit union occurred on July 17, Morris police said. In both instances, the caller generates the credit union's telephone number on recipients' caller ID (Morris Daily Herald Oct. 22). * An e-mail phishing scheme targeted $17 million asset Allegheny-Ludlum Brackenridge FCU, Brackenridge, Pa., according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Oct. 27 and Valley News Dispatch Oct. 26). Most of the recipients of the message were not credit union members. The message says the recipients' online account has expired and asks them to click on a site to provide their account number. Earlier last week, State Attorney General Tom Corbett also issued a warning about e-mail phishing scams disguised as messages from financial institutions and related to investment or retirement accounts. * Earlier this month, the Mason City, Iowa, police department reported receiving numerous reports of a credit-card scam by phone targeting members of $41 million asset North Iowa Community CU. The automated message reads out a person's name and says that person's credit card has been deactivated. It then asks the recipient to call and enter the credit card number. The calls come from out of state. One man dialed in his information and found unauthorized charges on his card, said police (Associated Press Newswires Oct. 2).

More than 550000 donated to TCUF disaster fund

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (10/28/08)--The Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) continues to be involved with Hurricane Ike relief efforts and has raised more than $550,000 for its disaster relief fund. More than 940 grants totaling $469,000 have been provided to credit union employees who work for credit unions in the affected areas (LoneStar Leaguer Oct. 27). Credit union employees in Southeast Texas who were impacted by the hurricane are eligible to apply for the league’s “Adopt a Family” program. Eligible employees must have at least one child and have suffered significant loss from the hurricane. Applicants must complete an online submission form (use the link). Six families have submitted profiles to date. TCUL also is offering debriefing sessions to help employees overcome grief and prevent emotional “stress fractures.” The league also will host a celebrity golf tournament next month with Southwest Corporate FCU in Plano, Texas, and the Harmon Killebrew Foundation. Proceeds will go to the disaster relief fund.

Connecticut league reassures CUs members of safety

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MERIDEN, Conn. (10/28/08)--Credit Union League of Connecticut President/CEO Anthony L. Emerson recently addressed members of Personal Care America FCU, Trumbull, Conn., to discuss the effects of the economy and their account insurance. Emerson addressed 24 employees of Unilever Home and Personal Care USA, a subsidiary of Unilever United States Inc., comprising the membership base of the $17.3 million asset credit union. The credit union's CEO, John E. Keet Jr., invited Emerson after members expressed serious concern over the deterioration of economic conditions and their potential effects, said the league. The session was recorded and is posted on the credit union’s website, www.pcafcu.com. Emerson discussed what led up to the present economic situation, what the initial “rescue bill” was defined to accomplish, the overall challenges financial institutions have faced over the past six months, and why banks are distressed while credit unions are not facing the same difficulties. He also discussed the strength and stability of credit unions' account insurance coverage through the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) fund, the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. He stressed it functions as the federal insurance arm for credit unions, functioning on part with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s regulation of banks. Emerson also called upon his background in economics to assess where the economy stands and where it is possibly headed. In addition, he discussed the fundamental differences between credit unions and banks, and added that “although credit unions in Connecticut have not been a part of the current crisis, they are ultimately committed to being a part of the solution.” In initiating the program, Keet said it was important to ask “someone familiar with economics to talk with our member base in layman’s terms. Our league president was the logical choice.”

NCUF grant to build Latino Real Estate Coalition

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DES MOINES, Iowa (10/28/08)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has presented a $24,050 Innovation Grant to build a Latino Real Estate Coalition to refer Spanish-speaking homebuyers in the Des Moines area to affordable credit union mortgages. “The Latino Real Estate Coalition will address the need for ethical practices among minorities and serve as an informal policing of best practices,” envisioned Debbie Whittie, CEO of Village CU, which will pilot the project in Iowa. Through the grant, Village CU will:
* Educate Latinos about the importance of credit scores in the U.S., and provide opportunities to build credit affordably and safely; * Build a coalition of professionals such as realtors, builders, appraisers and lenders to help Latinos buy homes; and * Create a best practices report, which can be shared as a model throughout the country.
Village CU will work with Coopera Consulting, a subsidiary of the Iowa Credit Union League that partners with credit unions seeking to grow membership in emerging markets. “Credit unions are often left out when real estate agents partner with mortgage brokers,” said NCUF Deputy Director Steve Bosack, staff liaison to the NCUF Grants Committee. “And much too often, minority homebuyers are steered toward sub-prime mortgages. Being on the ground floor of a Latino Real Estate Coalition would give credit unions a strong foothold to provide sustainable low-cost homeownership opportunities for Latinos." Best practices from the coalition may also be incorporated into NCUF’s signature program, REAL Solutions, which offers several low-cost homeownership options, including Home Loan Payment Relief (HLPR) mortgages advocated by the Credit Union National Association. HLPR mortgages are priced as low as 1% below the nationwide average. Innovation grants are made possible through credit unions’ investments in the Community Investment Fund.

Wood named Calif. DFI deputy CU commissioner

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (10/28/08)--RaAnn Wood, president/CEO of California Central CU, Glendale, has been named deputy commissioner of the division of credit unions at the California Department of Financial Institutions. “Wood brings to the position a depth and breadth of knowledge about credit union philosophy and credit union operations,” said Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California Credit Union League. Wood will remain with California CU through Nov. 21. She previously worked as professional networks manager for the league, and is a vice president and small credit union advocate for its Mount Baldy Chapter.

IUSA TodayI sees CUs as option for MBLs

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McLEAN, Va. (10/28/08)--Credit unions are good places to go for a loan right now, according to a financial expert quoted in USA Today (Oct. 26). “Credit unions are not exposed to the same risks that big banks are,” said Steve Strauss, in response to a question from a reader about where to go for credit. “As such, local credit unions have seen their portfolio of small business loans increase.” “The good news is that there are still options out there, it's just that if you want to find the money to start or expand your business, you may need to look in new places and be more creative,” he added. For the full article, use the link.

Texas commission to discontinue consolidated 990 filings

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (10/28/08)--The Texas Credit Union Commission has voted to discontinue the Texas Credit Union Department’s (TCUD) consolidated filing of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form 990, effective next year, according to the Texas Credit Union League. The league asked the department to reconsider its proposal after the department received more than 50 letters about the change (LoneStar Leaguer Oct. 27). “This change is driven by the IRS and its new form, not by the Texas Credit Union Department,” said Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas league. “The new form makes consolidated filing extremely challenging.” The TCUD will file a group form next spring for all state-chartered credit unions that want to be included. The filing will cover 2008, but credit unions must prepare their own individual Form 990s in 2010 for the year 2009, the league said. The Texas league has offered training sessions for the new 990 form and plans more for the future.

Former ICU TimesI ICU JournalI reporter Burger dead at 57

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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. (10/28/08)--A former reporter for the Credit Union Times and Credit Union Journal, Carol Anne Burger, was found dead at home Friday, an apparent suicide, according to police. Burger, 57, died of a gunshot wound to the head. She was found by police outside her Boynton Beach, Fla., home, just hours after her former longtime partner, Jessica Kalish, was found stabbed to death in her car (Palm Beach Post Oct. 26). Burger had reported Kalish missing on Thursday. In addition to working as a reporter for Credit Union Journal, Burger was employed as a special assignments report for Credit Union Times. She also contracted public relations work for the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS), and the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO). At the time of her death, Burger was writing a blog for a political website, the Huffington Post, contributing to its "Off the Bus" presidential election campaign coverage, said the Post. "Carol Anne was very much a believer in the philosophy and mission of credit unions but she covered and wrote about the movement with the objectivity her profession required," said Mark Wolff, CUNA senior vice president of communications. "She was a dedicated and tenacious journalist who will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. This is indeed a tragedy."

New York foundation announces state Desjardins winners

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ALBANY, N.Y. (10/28/08)--The New York Credit Union Foundation recently awarded four first-place and two honorable mention state-level Desjardins Youth Financial Education Awards to credit unions. First place recipients include:
The New York Credit Union Foundation awarded state-level Desjardins Youth Financial Education Awards to New York credit unions. Receiving the awards on behalf of their credit unions are: Sharon Phillips, Capital Communications FCU; Laurie Baker, The Summit FCU; Thom Dellwo, Cooperative FCU; James Suriano, Sidney FCU; Ron Ehrenreich, Cooperative FCU; and Robert Allen, Teachers FCU. (Photo provided by the New York Credit Union Foundation)
* Cooperative FCU, Woodridge, less than $35 million in assets; * Sidney (N.Y.) FCU, $75 million to $250 million in assets; * Capital Communications FCU, Albany, more than $250 million in assets; and * Teachers FCU, Farmingville, more than $1 billion in assets.
Honorable mentions went to:
* The Summit FCU, Rochester, more than $250 million in assets; and * Visions FCU, Endicott, more than $1 billion in assets.
The Desjardins awards are presented to credit unions that demonstrate a significant commitment to youth financial education. “Today’s economic situation certainly underscores the importance of improving the financial literacy of New Yorkers,” said Diane LaVigna-Wixted, foundation executive director. “After [I saw] all of the great projects credit unions submitted for the award, it was obvious that our credit unions recognize the importance of [financial literacy].”

Minnesota network hosts fraud-fighting workshops

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EAGAN, Minn. (10/28/08)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) hosted a fraud workshop Thursday to emphasize the importance of educating members about fraud schemes and outline how credit unions can prevent fraud.
Jeff Schwalen (center), president of Hiway FCU, St. Paul, Minn., revealed during a fraud prevention workshop hosted by the Minnesota Credit Union Network Thursday that a member of his credit union was the target of a mass marketing scam. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
Thursday’s session was one of three MnCUN workshops held statewide. The workshop featured two special agents from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Fraud Enforcement Unit. They shared information about lottery and sweepstakes scams, how to identify a mass-marketing scam, the negative impact these schemes have on financial institutions and how to report fraud. MnCUN has partnered with Minnesota’s Fraud Enforcement Partnership task force since 2007. The network also is working with its member credit unions to provide them with fraud prevention information. “These scams prey upon credit union members and consumers all across the state,” said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. “MnCUN’s goal is to use our resources to educate credit unions and consumers about this fraud and help them protect themselves from becoming victims.” Each year, Minnesotans lose $8 million to $10 million to fraud schemes. Because of under-reporting, officials estimate that losses could be as high as $20 million to $25 million.