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International students celebrate holiday with CU

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SUFFERN, N.Y. (11/28/11)--International students at Rockland Community College, Suffern, N.Y.,  had an opportunity to learn about American customs and share in Thanksgiving traditions at an event sponsored by Palisades FCU, Pearl River, N.Y.

The holiday meal was prepared fresh by students in the college's Hospitality Program using turkeys donated by a local grocery.

"We've been supporting the college for years, and we're delighted to have had the opportunity to help these students representing over 50 countries once again," said Palisades President/CEO Mark Welshoff.

Second man convicted in armored-car guards death

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DETROIT (11/28/11)--A second man was convicted  Tuesday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of an armored-car guard  during a $204,000 holdup at an ATM outside Dearborn FCU (now DFCU Financial) in Detroit in 2001.

Kevin Watson, 41, was convicted  of killing Norman "Anthony" Stephens, 30, who was delivering money to ATMs on Dec. 14, 2001, when six men committed the robbery. Stephens, the father of six, was shot twice and died at the scene.

Witnesses testified that Watson and codefendant Timothy O'Reilly, 37, had shot Stephens. In August 2010, O'Reilly was convicted in the murder and was formally sentenced to life without parole last February. He had faced the death penalty, but the jury could not reach the unanimous agreement required on who pulled the trigger (News Now Feb. 10 and Aug. 27, 2010). O'Reilly's death penalty case was rare, because Michigan was the first state to abolish capital punishment in 1846. However, the penalty can still be imposed in federal trials. 

Watson faces a mandatory life in prison sentence. He is the second of five suspects in the robbery to be convicted of murder. A sixth suspect is deceased (News Now Aug. 27, 2010).

Two mergers announced

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DEEPWATER, N.J. (11/28/11)--Two credit union mergers--one in New Jersey and one in Massachusetts--were recently announced.

Members of the Salem County Federal Employees FCU (SCFEFCU), based in Pennsville, N.J., voted unanimously at special meeting Oct. 26 in favor of a proposed merger with the $74 million asset Deepwater (N.J.) Industries FCU (New Jersey Credit Union Leagues' The Daily Exchange Nov. 23).

The merger was previously approved by the SCFEFCU board. SCFEFCU has $1.5 million in assets.

Also, $28 million asset Fitchburg (Mass.) Municipal Employees FCU, will merge into Webster First CU, a $562 million asset credit union based in Worcester, Mass. (telegram.com Nov. 23).

The merger, approved in September by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), will be finalized Nov. 30.

Fitchburg Municipal Employees FCU lost $84,503--according to NCUA call reports--during the first three quarters of 2011, the publication said.

U.S. Scottish CUSOs now WOCCU associate members

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MADISON, Wis. (11/28/11)--World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) board of directors has approved membership applications submitted by U.S-based CU Direct Corp., and Scotland-based CUSSCO Ltd. Both are credit union service organizations (CUSOs) owned by credit unions.

"Credit unions worldwide are achieving greater efficiencies, accessing high-level expertise and investing in technology through credit union-owned business associations," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. "We are happy to welcome both CU Direct and CUSSCO, not only for the strength they bring their credit union partners, but also their anticipated contributions to World Council's international community."

CU Direct administers the largest auto-lending network for U.S. credit unions and offers a library of products and services to help credit unions advance their lending programs.

CU Direct is the parent company of CUDL, Lending Insights, Lending 360 and CUDL retail brands. It serves more than 950 credit unions and 7,000 dealerships in the U.S. It began as a division of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues in 1994 and became an independent entity in 2002.

CUSSCO Ltd. is jointly owned by Capital CU Ltd. in Edinburgh and Scotwest CU in Glasgow, the site of WOCCU's 2011 World Credit Union Conference. Both credit unions have been actively involved in WOCCU for many years.

The WOCCU board approved both membership applications at its meeting earlier this month in Lima, Peru. Representatives from CU Direct and CUSCCO will be recognized formally at the WOCCU 2012 annual general meeting, which will be held with the World Credit Union Conference, July 15-18 in Gdańsk, Poland.

For more information on the conference, use the link.

Holidays bring on latest trend in online scams

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MADISON, Wis. (11/28/11)--While the holiday season is the time of the year for shopping and sharing, it's also the time for online fraud and scams. Shopping and phishing scams, viruses and malware can turn good cheer into frustration with the click of a mouse. Credit unions can help their members avoid becoming victims this holiday season. Education, as always, is the key to prevention.

E-mail scams may include these solicitations:

  • Requests for upfront shipping fees before receiving an unsolicited package;
  • Requests for "charitable contributions" from illegitimate sources;
  • Fake anti-virus software offers ("scareware");
  • Fake social media "contests" and "promotions" for gift cards or free iPads;
  • Holiday "job offers" and travel scams offering free cruises; and
  • Holiday e-cards from unnamed "friends" and relatives.
Many financial-related phishing e-mails are designed to appear oriented as "verification of account information" emails that look like official communications from financial institutions, according to the Texas Credit Union League (Lone Star Leaguer Nov. 22). In the emails, receivers are solicited to "click a link" where they will be prompted to verify their account information, such as name and account number. While most consumers will ignore these e-mails, it only takes one click to make it worthwhile to the fraudster.

As communication evolves, social media platforms are increasingly becoming a target of fraudsters. A recent scam occurred at Southwest Airlines when cybercriminals disguised the scheme as a Facebook post that read, "I love Southwest." Visitors were asked to "repost" the ad on their news feed for "free tickets." But when they clicked, they were asked to take surveys, provide personal information and sign up for free "product" trials. There were no free tickets.

In instances of malware and/or viruses intrusions, some computer owners never know their computers are infected because some virus/malware can avoid virus software detection. Malware is becoming increasingly sophisticated because fraudsters are always working to stay one step ahead of authorities.

Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation dismantled an organized cyber network of eastern European criminals who used malware to target banner display advertising. The malware, which infected millions computers worldwide, redirected users to websites that generated at least $14 million in fraudulent advertising fees. The malware was undetectable by virus software such as MacAfee. It would swap legitimate banner ads, such as those that appear on Amazon or Google, with phony ads that directed users to bogus websites soliciting personal information.

Credit unions can advise members to take preventative measure to protect themselves. Takes these steps:

  • Educate employees so they can warn members;
  • Provide advice in newsletters and on websites;
  • Warn members not to follow unsolicited Web links in e-mail messages or on social media platforms;
  • Caution against opening email attachments;
  • Advise members to maintain up-to-date antivirus software; and
  • Explain that they should verify charity authenticity through a trusted contact number.

ICU Foundation awards 22K in third grant round

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (11/28/11)--The Illinois Credit Union Foundation earlier this month awarded $22,000 to a variety of projects, including Small Credit Union Development (SCUD), Community Service, Marketing and Business Development, and Financial Independence & Revitalization Effort grants.

Total grants awarded by the foundation for the year is nearly $88,000.

SCUD grants this cycle totaled $8,000 and were awarded to four credit unions for computer hardware and software upgrades, a new security system, and other operational needs.

The recipients were:

  • Alton (Ill.) Bell Community CU;
  • Alton & Southern Railroad Employees FCU, East St. Louis;
  • CTA C & M FCU, Chicago; and
  • IBEW Local 146 CU, Decatur.
The foundation also awarded nine Community Service Grants of $500 each. The program is designed to encourage and reward chapter or credit union participation in local community projects. Credit unions and chapters can qualify for grants by hosting, creating or volunteering at an event.

Recipients included:

  • DHCU Community CU, Moline;
  • Imperial CU, Springfield;
  • Landmark CU, Danville; and
  • Members First Community CU, Quincy.
Five chapters--Danville Area, Egyptian, John L. Kelly, Rockford Area and Southern Illinois--also received the $500 grants. Grants awarded will go toward hosting a community shred day, financial education projects (National Endowment for Financial Education and Mad City Money) and holiday projects.

Also, three credit unions received Marketing and Business Development grants that totaled $9,900. Established in 2006, the grants help credit unions with assets of up to $30 million to start or expand outreach efforts. The maximum grant award is $5,000 per credit union per year. Grant requests this round included: a new financial security campaign for seniors, a new logo and website upgrades.

The recipients were:

  • North Side Community FCU, Chicago;
  • Three Rivers Community CU, Mt. Carmel; and
  • Northside L FCU, Chicago.

Churches pulling funds from big banks

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MADISON, Wis. (11/28/11)--The New Bottom Line, a coalition of church congregations, community organizations, and labor unions is coordinating "Move our Money," a campaign to transfer $1 billion from big banks to credit unions and community banks--financial institutions that invest their money back into local communities.

About $55 million had been moved as part of the campaign as of Nov. 23, according to the Move Our Money website.

Roughly 100 leaders from a broad cross section of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations pledged to move $100 million to community financial institutions, during a gathering sponsored by PICO National Network, a coalition of more than 1,000 faith-based social justice groups (The Christian Century Nov. 22).

In October, Most Holy Trinity Church and its school in San Jose, Calif., ended a longer-than 20-year relationship with Bank of America, moving its $3 million into a local credit union (News Now Oct. 24).

The New Bottom Line and its partners are introducing resolutions in 50 cities nationwide to divest transfer taxpayer funds to credit unions and community banks.

The Move Our Money campaign is not related to the "Move Your Money" project initiated two years ago by Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington and economist Rob Johnson.

It is also separate from the national "Bank Transfer Day" movement started on Facebook, which encouraged consumers to transfer funds to credit unions from banks on Nov. 5.

The Credit Union National Association reported that 700,000 people joined credit unions nationwide in the month before Bank Transfer Day--more than the 600,000 who joined in all of 2010, The Christian Century said.

IMotley FoolI analysis Fin crisis hit banks harder than CUs

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NEW YORK (11/28/11)--An analysis of the number of failures by financial institution type conducted by The Motley Fool backs up credit unions' argument that credit unions fared better than commercial banks during the 2008 financial crisis and the sluggish economy since.

The Motley Fool looked at commercial banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and at credit unions insured by the National Credit Union Administration. Its conclusion: "While negatively affected by the crisis, credit unions did not experience the sort of radical departure from their baseline rate that banks did," said the Fool (Nov. 22).

The Motley Fool is a well-known website that offers advice and analysis on money and finances.

It noted that a key narrative of the recent Bank Transfer Day events was "to pit normally sleepy credit unions against the big banking industry. Credit union skeptics are quick to point out the fact that credit unions hardly went unscathed during the 2008 financial crisis, yet credit union advocates argue that their institutions fared better than commercial banks." 

The Fool asked if credit unions' claims were backed by numbers, and concluded they were. In 2008, the rate of commercial bank failures (0.60%) was almost triple that of credit unions (0.23%), said the publication.  In 2010, banks' failure rate increased to 1.86%, nearly  five times the credit union rate of 0.40%.

"While the sluggish economy seems to have also negatively affected credit unions, they experienced nowhere near the surge of failures seen in the commercial banking sector," said the Fool.

The publication noted a similar pattern for "problematic" institutions.

CU System briefs (11/23/2011)

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  • DANVILLE, Pa. (11/28/11)--Danville, Pa., police are crediting an employee of Service 1st FCU with stopping a forgery scheme after the teller notified a Danville woman that the woman's son was making suspicious transactions (The Danville News Nov. 22). Bradley S. Olson, 20, has been charged with 40 counts, including forging 20 checks from his mother, Gloria Olson, 10 counts of theft by deception and 10 counts of receiving stolen property.  Gloria Olson told police her son stole a book of about 25 checks and forged her signature. The checks were drawn on her account at M-C FCU in Danville.  The Service lst teller became suspicious when Bradley Olson allegedly brought in two checks totaling $500. The teller called his mother to ask if the transactions were legitimate and she discovered a checkbook was missing …
  • WOODBURY, Minn. (11/28/11)--Postal CU, based in Woodbury, Minn., is giving away $1,000 a week in cash prizes through the end of 2011 to members who use their debit cards. Each time members use their PCU Cash & Check Card for purchases until Dec. 31, they will earn a chance to win one of the credit union's weekly $1,000 random drawings. Members can earn 100 bonus entries when they make 25 or more purchases a week with the card.  "This debit card promotion is designed to thank and encourage members to use their cards without penalizing them for doing so," said PCU President Russ Plunkett …
  • HARRISBURG, Pa. (11/28/11)--Pennsylvania's credit union leaders met with U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (center)  (R-Pa.) on Nov. 21 at his Hazleton, Pa., district office, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway Nov. 22). The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize Barletta with credit unions. The group discussed the cost of regulations, small business lending, financial education and payday lending concerns in the area.  Barletta shared his concerns about the economy, the national debt and the district.  Those attending were from Choice One Community FCU, Cross Valley FCU, P.G.&W. Employees FCU, and People's Choice FCU. Christina Mihalik of PCUA also attended.  (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association) …