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Florida paper For borrowing a CU is best choice

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SOUTH FLORIDA, Fla. (11/18/08)--Competition for the consumer dollar is heating up in the areas of checking, savings and borrowing, and credit unions are the best choice for borrowing, reports a Florida newspaper. "For borrowing, a credit union is often the best choice, especially for auto loans," says columnist Gregory Karp in the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Nov. 16). "Find out which credit unions you qualify for by asking your employer and family members who belong to a credit union," Karp urged. "Or go online to credit unions search sites," he said. Karp said the best deals on savings are at online banks. For checking accounts, he suggested consumers look at fees, interest, rewards and the cost of switching accounts.

California DFI urges FIs to assist L.A. fire victims

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (11/18/08)--The California Department of Financial Institutions has requested that the state’s financial institutions, including credit unions, help families recovering from wildfires that destroyed more than 800 homes in the Orange County area. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. Tens of thousands of Californians were forced to evacuate their homes and major freeways have been shut down as the wildfires continue to burn (Sacramento Bee Nov. 14). American First CU, La Habra, is contacting its members in affected areas. The credit union also will offer its American First Aid Program to affected members, Tina Ramos-Ingold, California Credit Union League public affairs coordinator, told News Now. American First reported no damages to branches in the area. The California league is contacting credit unions potentially affected by the fires. The league did not receive damage reports or news of affected credit union members by press time Monday night. Wescom CU, Pasadena, told News Now that it closed its Anaheim Hills branch early on Saturday because of the fires. The branch has since re-opened.

CU System briefs (11/17/2008)

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* MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. (11/18/08)--Florida police have arrested a man who they say robbed a credit union, hid the money in his prosthetic leg, and used his motorized wheelchair as a "getaway vehicle." Christopher Warren Reed, 45, a paraplegic, was arrested Friday afternoon about 10 minutes after the Merritt Island branch of Space Coast CU, headquartered in Melbourne, was robbed. Police say he entered the credit union at about 4 p.m., claimed to have an explosive device and demanded money. He told police that two men threatened him and ordered him to commit the robbery. Police found the money inside his prosthetic leg. He has been charged with robbery, grand theft, threatening to use a hoax device and aggravated assault (Associated Press via wflxfox29.com and USA TODAY Nov. 17) … * NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (11/18/08)--A woman convicted of hiring a hit man to kill her Navy sailor husband was sentenced Friday to four life terms plus 20 years in a plea bargain that spared her the death penalty. Catherina Rose Voss, 33, pleaded guilty in July in the April 2007 murder of Cory Allen Voss, 30, who was shot to death at an ATM outside a branch of Langley FCU in Oyster Point. Her boyfriend, Michael Draven, 28, is scheduled for trail in March and faces a possible life in prison sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for David A. Runyon, 37, of West Virginia, who is accused of being the triggerman in the plot (Daily Press Nov. 15) … * NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (11/18/08)--Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO David Adams has been appointed to the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority (MHEAA), a body of the state Department of Treasury. Its 15 members are appointed by the governor with advice and consent from the Michigan State Senate. It consists of representatives from the state education and lending communities and the public at large. Adams will represent credit unions as lending institutions. His term will expire May 22, 2012 (Michigan Monitor Nov. 17) … * FORT WAYNE, Ind. (11/18/08)--Counterfeit cashier's checks bearing the name of Professional FCU are in circulation, the credit union reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). In a special alert, the FDIC said the counterfeit items display the $272.9 million asset, Fort Wayne, Ind. credit union's routing number and are similar to the credit unions authentic cashier's checks. The bogus checks display the words, "ORIGINAL DOCUMENT" embedded in the top border. Authentic checks display a telephone number below the name "PROFED" and the credit union's address in the top-left corner … * MICHIGAN CENTER, Mich. (11/18/08)--Members of Michigan Center-based Cascades Community FCU approved a proposed merger with Jackson, Mich.-based EECU--A Community Credit Union by a majority vote on Oct. 20, reports the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Nov. 17). The merger is pending approval from state and federal regulators. In the proposed merger, current EECU President/CEO Steve Cobb will retain his title in the new organization, which will keep the EECU--A Community Credit Union name. No branch closings or layoffs are planned. The credit unions hope to finalize the merger in January …

Debit rewards reimbursed surcharge top of consumer list

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MADISON, Wis. (11/18/08)--Credit unions and financial institutions that offer debit rewards and reimburse surcharges are more likely to attract consumers looking to open checking accounts, according to a survey by Aite Group LLC. Forty percent of survey respondents said they want debit cards to provide rewards when the cards are used for purchases. Also, 60% of respondents said they want their financial institutions to reimburse surcharge fees incurred when they use ATMs of competing financial institutions, said the report, “Checking Accounts: Who is Winning the Battle Online?” (ATM&Debit News Nov. 13). Aite, a Boston-based consulting firm, surveyed 19,000 people who visited findabetterbank.com--a financial-comparison website--between February and June. Ron Shevlin, report author and Aite senior analyst, grouped the site’s visitors into three categories:
* Those motivated by the monetary aspects of a checking account, including debit card rewards, ATM-fee rebates, interest on balances, unlimited check writing and free or discounted check printing; * Those that favor technology features; and * Those that cannot decide on a specific checking-account preference.
Despite the rise in the use of debit cards and the large number who wanted rewards, just 9% of visitors said rewards were a “must-have” feature. Rewards availability increased in the past year with 51% of 62 financial institutions surveyed offering debit rewards in 2007, compared with 37% in 2006, according to the 2008 Pulse Debit Issuer Study. Most debit-card rewards offered by the top 50 U.S. banks apply only to signature-debit transactions, according to a report by Mercator Advisory Group.

Reuters CUs step up loans as banks retreat

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NOVI, Mich. (11/18/08)--While many big banks are cutting back on their lending amidst a weak U.S. economy and a nationwide housing downturn, many credit unions are stepping up and offering loans to fill the void, reports Reuters. Generally, credit unions are smaller than commercial banks, with average U.S. assets in 2007 of $93 million, compared with $1.53 billion for banks, according to the Credit Union National Association (Reuters Nov. 16). Most banks in the Cleveland area have imposed a freeze on lending, which has resulted in more people turning to credit unions, Rita Haynes, CEO of the $10.5 million asset, Cleveland-based Faith Community CU, told Reuters. When Jim Greenshields, a laid-off engineer with Ford Motor Company, found a job this summer, he had been in default on his mortgage since late 2007. In August, he had to relinquish his home after his proposed repayment plan was rejected by his bank because he had been in default so long. Three months later, Community Financial Members CU, a $415.4 million asset, Plymouth, Mich.-based credit union, offered Greenhsields a car loan and a mortgage loan to buy back his former home from his old bank for $350,000. He paid $450,000 the first time. Although credit unions historically are not the first place people go for an auto loan, times are changing, Cliff Rosenthal, CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, told Reuters. While many credit union members are struggling with food and energy prices, credit unions’ individual approach is helpful to members experiencing financial difficulties, Reuters said. Faith Community tries to work out solutions for members with problems such as paying their mortgage, Haynes said, adding that the credit union does whatever it can to help members in its community.

Scammers take advantage of financial crisis holiday

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (11/18/08)--Scammers are taking advantage of the financial crisis and may earmark the upcoming holidays by launching new attacks to steal personal information for possible fraud. According to the Wisconsin Credit Union League, consumers should be wary of e-mails or ads that ask them to update, validate or confirm account information (Wisconsin State Journal Nov. 14). Credit unions can help get the word out to their members about these claims. One claim says that a company recently acquired the recipient's mortgage and asks for an update of personal information, the league said. UW CU, Madison, Wis., warned its members about a "secret shopper" scam that sends recipients fake checks for consumer research and asks the recipients to deposit the checks and wire the money. Members can expect more scams to take advantage of the holidays, similar to one that occurred last Thanksgiving Day in Manitowoc County, Wis., said the league. That scam--timed to occur when financial institutions are closed--dialed 40,000 area residents and got 20,000 people to answer the phone. It claimed the recipients' bank account was frozen, provided a toll-free number to call to reinstate it and asked the recipients to verify their personal information. Other scams reported recently:
* In Columbus, Ala., TIC FCU reported that callers purporting to be from the credit union were taking a "shotgun approach," randomly calling numbers in hopes that a member would divulge credit card, debit card PINs (WRBL.com Nov. 12). * Ypsilanti Area FCU in the Ann Arbor, Mich., warned residents that phishers are using a fake credit union's name to gain access to bank accounts in Ann Arbor. A number of the credit union's members received the e-mails and text messages. The e-mails direct recipients to a website while the text messages direct them to an automated phone line. The credit union warned members not to respond (The Ann Arbor News via mlive.com Nov. 7). * In Valparasio, Ind., police warned the public about automated telephone messages that told consumers their accounts at Regional FCU and other local institutions were about to be canceled unless they provided an account number and PIN over the phone. The credit union said its members are well-educated on fraud prevention (Post-Tribune Nov. 12). * And outside the U.S., an e-mail purporting to be from the "Account Review Department" of the Irish League of Credit Unions claimed the recipients' account had experienced an unauthorized access or security alert. Recipients were directed to a website to reactivate their accounts by providing personal details such as card numbers (Irish Times via spamfighter.com Nov. 14).
All the institutions warned that they do not ask for information that they already have on file and especially would never do so in unsolicited messages.

Michigan MaxwellHerringDesjardins winners announced

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (11/18/08)--The Michigan Credit Union League announced recipients of the 2008 state Dora Maxwell, Louise Herring and Alphonse Desjardins Awards. Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility first-place awards were presented to:
* GraCo FCU, Alma, $5 million to $20 million in assets; * Education Plus CU, Monroe, $20 million to $50 million; * Education First CU, Southgate, $50 million to $100 million; * Alpena Alcona Area CU, Alpena, $100 million to $200 million; and * LAFCU, Lahaina, first place, $200 million to $500 million.
Louise Herring Philosophy in Action first-place awards were presented to Central Macomb Community CU, $50 million to $250 million in assets, and MSU FCU, East Lansing, $250 million or higher. First place Desjardins Youth Financial Education awards were presented to:
* Education First CU, 35 million to $75 million in assets; * Extra CU, Warren, $75 million to $250 million; and * Michigan Schools and Government CU, Mount Clemens, $250 million and avoce.

WOCCU Development firms see value in CU difference

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BELIZE CITY, Belize (11/18/08)--When World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Chairman Melvin Edwards talks about agricultural lending, he draws a distinct connection to the additional value credit unions bring to the process.
World Council of Credit Unions Chairman Melvin Edwards discusses agricultural lending in Belize at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU, an agency for improving stakeholder information among rural development efforts in several countries. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
More people are taking notice and asking questions about the strength through sustainability that credit unions bring to any development equation, Edwards said. During a presentation earlier this month to the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU, Edwards described WOCCU's approach to value chain financing in Peru and several other countries. The Centre is a Netherlands-based agency for improving the flow of stakeholder information among rural development efforts in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Those attending the Belize workshops learned about the sustainability credit unions offer participants--something critical to effecting long-term change, but often unavailable through other development agencies, WOCCU said. “WOCCU agricultural lending efforts have stressed value-chain financing, capacity building and improving delivery mechanisms,” said Edwards, who represents the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions on WOCCU's board of directors. “Not all questions of success and accessibility have been answered, but WOCCU's sustainable approach helps credit unions worldwide deliver financial services to people in rural markets who need them most.” Value-chain financing provides funding for participants in the field-to-market process to streamline the process between the time a crop is planted, harvested, reaches the market and is sold to the final end-user, and earnings from the sale are returned to the producers after the credit union loans are satisfied. Introduced in credit unions by WOCCU in Peru, the process is being adapted to serve the needs of small producers in Kenya and other countries. “By becoming credit union members as part of the value-chain process, small producers solidify business relationships and gain market access, not only for the duration of the value-chain cycle, but for the foreseeable future,” Edwards told Belize participants. “WOCCU's methodology enables credit unions to identify at which point in the value chain--from production to commercialization--financing brings producers the best value and represents a good investment for the institution.” Critical components of successful value-chain financing include adapting it to the local environment and engaging the key actors at the appropriate times. For example, in both Peru and Kenya, small producers, farmers' groups and product buyers are brought together at the start, cutting out the need for middlemen and returning to producers more profits from crop sales. “No matter how formal the structure, credit union involvement in agricultural development and lending at all levels provides greater sustainability for those involved in the process,” Edwards said. “More and more small producers in developing nations worldwide are seeing greater benefits from the credit union difference.”