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Oregon CU Foundation announces new officers

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (12/1/08)--The Oregon Credit Union Foundation has elected a new slate of board officers. They are:
* Chair, Carlyn Roy, executive vice president/chief operating officer, OSU FCU, Corvallis; * Vice chair, Brooke Van Vleet, executive vice president/chief officer, First Tech CU, Beaverton; * Treasurer, Kathy Garner, president, northwest regional office, Southwest Corporate FCU, Plano, Texas; and * Secretary, Robert Barzler, president/CEO, Point West CU, Portland.
Rounding out the board are Shirley Cate, president/CEO, Providence Health System FCU; Barbara Mathey, president/CEO, IBEW & United Workers FCU; and Pat Smith, president/CEO, Unitus Community CU, all of Portland. Outgoing directors are: Gene Pelham, president/CEO, Rogue FCU, Medford; Tom Sargent, president/CEO, First Tech CU; and Eldon Hoekstra, who retired as president/CEO of Valley Health & Postal Employees CU, Salem.

Scams targeting CUs across the nation

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MADISON, Wis. (12/1/08)--Various scams continue to target credit unions and other financial institutions across the nation. The most recent incidents involve seven credit unions. Here are the latest:
* Bethlehem, Pa., police said 50 members of the Bethlehem Teachers FCU experienced fraudulent charges applied to their debit cards from Florida and Texas. An undetermined amount of money was involved, but the investigation is ongoing. The fraud appears to be a part of a larger, nationwide issue involving Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards, said The Express-Times (Nov. 20). * SAMP Scranton FCU, Scranton, Pa., told the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association it received a phone call from a male with an accent who indicated he was providing service to an incapacitated credit union member. The caller said the member had asked that money be sent to her sister. He had the woman's account number and birthdate. A suspicious credit union representative indicated she knew the member and asked the caller for the woman's daughter's name. He hung up. The credit union contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Life is a Highway (Nov. 26). * Martinsville (Va.) DuPont Employees CU (MDCU) reported its name and website were used in phishing e-mail, which told recipients its database had been attacked and they needed to call a number to update check card information to avoid suspension. The number listed isn't the credit union's. ( Nov. 26). * Vantage CU (Bridgeton, Mo.) President/CEO Hubert Hoosman Jr. told viewers of KMOV-TV, the St. Louis CBS affiliate, about a phone phishing scam using the credit union's name. The calls originated from a 408 area code in California and at least 20 people in St. Peters contacted police after receiving them. Hoosman advised anyone getting the calls to "hang up the phone immediately." (Misssouri Difference Nov. 26). * Susquehanna Valley FCU of Camp Hill, Pa., and a local police station received reports of automated phone calls warning members and non-members about "problems" with their credit union accounts, credit cards and debit cards. The calls are bogus and random, and the credit union's database was not compromised, said the police in Lower Allen Township, Pa. ( Nov. 26). * New versions have surfaced of scams targeting IH Mississippi Valley CU, Moline, Ill., and efforts the credit union took earlier to educate its members about phishing have paid off, the credit union told the Quad-City Times Nov. 26). IH Mississippi Valley had no incidents of members being duped and providing confidential information in the current round. The latest phony messages are e-mailed from an account at the credit union and inform cardholders they have one new open issue that they must "clear here to resolve." * Cowlitz CU, Longview, Wash., said a mass e-mail informing people--both members and non-members--about fraudulent activity on their check card at the credit union is a scam. The scammers ask for the 16-digit check card number to "reactivate" the account (The Daily News Nov. 25).

Maryland CUs tout their white hat image

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BALTIMORE (12/1/08)--Maryland's credit unions are making sure the public knows that while other financial institutions line up for relief money from the Treasury, credit unions are solvent and willing to lend. An article in the Baltimore Examiner (Nov. 25), "Maryland credit unions tout 'white hat' image," reported on the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association's (MDDCCUA) regional ad campaign for credit unions. Credit unions bought 632 ads and traffic sponsorships on Maryland and Washington, D.C., radio stations about the government's temporary increase of deposit insurance to $250,000. They also bought 65 bus-tail ads stating, "Credit Unions: Where Your Savings Are Safe." The $130,000 campaign ended Nov. 23. Traffic at a website referred to in the ads doubled, said MDDCCUA. The article features a photo and interview with Brian Vittek, CEO of Destinations CU, Baltimore, who estimated membership is up 5% year to date and said deposits are up also The nation's credit unions are posting a 15% increase in mortgage and business lending year-over-year, said the article, which also noted that credit unions are ineligible for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Four arrested in ID thefts aimed at home equity loans

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NEWARK, N.J. (12/1/08)--Four men were arrested Tuesday in connection with an international identity theft ring that targeted home equity lines of credit and caused $2.5 million in losses at dozens of credit unions and banks. Eleven of the institutions were in New Jersey (The Star-Ledger Nov. 25). The arrests follow an investigation that began in November 2007. The ring targeted homeowners who had large lines of credit at financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, and credit unions in three New Jersey cities--Basking Ridge, Bridgewater and Toms River. They used stolen personal data and technology to fool financial institution employees into transferring funds to accounts in at least seven countries, said the U.S. Attorney's office. In the past, ID thieves typically targeted people with shaky credit and took illegal loans in their names from subprime lenders with little documentation, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, the credit crisis hampered the thieves and they turned to homeowners who have good credit and deep home equity. The thieves obtained Social Security numbers, mothers' maiden names and online passwords by mining public records, obtaining the information from overseas sources, and from tricking bank employees into releasing personal information over the phone. They blocked the banks' caller identification systems and asked to transfer large amounts from the victims' home equity lines. In one case, they moved $675,000 from Affinity FCU in Basking Ridge to the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, said the authorities. They also persuaded bank employees to change the telephone number on accounts or convinced phone company employees to reroute their victims' calls. The frauds are being linked to similar cases in Virginia, where nine people were charged with stealing more than $51 million. The four arrested were: Oludola Akinmola, 37, and Oladeji Craig, 39, both of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Oluwajide Ogunbiyi, 32, of Springfield, Ill.; and Derrick Polk, 45, of Los Angeles. They are charged with conspiracy to: possess personal identification information, commit wire fraud and gain unauthorized access to a computer. If convicted, they face up to 50 years in prison and a maximum $1.5 million fine.

Mortgage Fraud Task Force gets CU perspective

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ST. LOUIS (12/1/08)--Missouri's credit union leaders are involved in a newly formed U.S. Attorney's Task Force on Mortgage Fraud, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA). MCUA President/CEO Rosie Holub and Missouri Division of Credit Unions Director Sandy Branson are providing a credit union perspective to help the task force prevent mortgage fraud. U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway announced the task force was being formed to share information and trends, so tools could be developed to help identify and prosecute in mortgage fraud incidents. The task force has three goals:
* Stopping mortgage fraud before it starts via educating industry officials, borrowers and local law enforcement; * Ensuring all fraud cases are brought to the attention of law enforcement and prosecutors; and * Making sure the voices of the community victimized by mortgage fraud are heard by the courts.
Holub will participate in the next task force meeting on Dec. 17 in St. Louis. The task force is made up of law enforcement officials, government regulators and real estate professionals.

CU System briefs (11/30/2008)

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* AKRON, Ohio (12/1/08)--A man who handed a teller at TeleCommunity CU a note saying his child was being held hostage by someone outside a medical center in Brecksville, Ohio, likely used the hoax to throw authorities off his trail, said Bath Township police. The unarmed man walked away from the Akron-based credit union with an undisclosed amount. His note had said the child would be killed if he didn't return and give money to the kidnapper. Police spotted the suspect later headed in the opposite direction but could not turn around to give chase because of snow conditions. "We are confident at this point that there was no kidnapping and no hostage," said Police Chief Michael McNeely. The incident occurred at 11:17 a.m. Tuesday (Akron Beacon-Journal Nov. 25 and Nov. 26) … * ROANOKE, Va. (12/1/08)--A woman who received an insurance settlement and cashed it at the insurance company's bank--Bank of America--was told that one of the bills she got at the bank was a counterfeit bill. The bogus bill was discovered when she went to her credit union, Roanoke Valley FCU, to convert the cash to a cashier's check to pay for a new vehicle. A credit union teller swiped each bill with a counterfeit-detecting pen, which flagged a $100 bill. The pen works by making a dark mark on bad bills and leaves no line when a bill is good. In 2005, nearly one in every 10,000 bills handled by U.S. commercial banks turned out to be bogus, says the U.S. Treasury (The Roanoke Times Nov. 26) …

African CUs activists continue fighting HIVAIDS

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KISUMU, Kenya (12/1/08)--A member of Mwalimu Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) in western Kenya is spearheading efforts by one of Kenya's largest credit unions to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and understanding among his fellow members. Today is World AIDS Day 2008.
George Musingo, a member of Mwalimu Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO), Kenya, and other activists are helping the world become aware of HIV/AIDs issues. Today is World AIDS Day 2008. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
George Musingo is an English teacher at Day Secondary School. A father of five, Musingo holds credentials in religious studies and is pursuing a master’s degree in literature. He is also HIV-positive, a condition he discovered in 2000 after his wife died from the disease and left him to raise their five children alone. Since then, Musingo has undertaken a second master’s degree to explore the impact that HIV-positive disclosure has on the educational community. He also maintains his peer leader position at Mwalimu, one of the Kenyan SACCOs supported by World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) development efforts. “I have become an HIV/AIDS activist to save the teaching community in Kenya from the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease,” said Musingo, one of three HIV/AIDS peer leaders who spoke at WOCCU’s African SACCO Technical Conference at Banjul, The Gambia in October. “It would be my joy if HIV/AIDS sufferers could die in dignity, rather than in denial.” Musingo is one of many such peer educators involved in Kenya's “Mwalimu Stop AIDS” program, which attempts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS through member education and advocacy. More members are reportedly listening and more of those afflicted by the pandemic are gaining access to critical anti-retroviral therapies used to combat the illness. As World AIDS Day 2008 dawns today, HIV/AIDS continues its deadly global spread at an alarming rate. At the end of 2007, an estimated 32.7 million people were infected by HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The rise in the number of sufferers has slowed thanks to better education and increased access to drugs, with some three million new patients receiving critical antiretroviral therapy last year. Despite increased efforts, in 2007 an additional 2.5 million people contracted HIV/AIDS, and 2.1 million died from the disease. Roughly 68% of sufferers worldwide live in sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya. More than three million people in Kenya, including 16% of the adult population, are HIV-positive. Kenya is one of eight countries worldwide that has seen an increase in the total number of HIV/AIDS cases during the past year, according to UNAIDS statistics. “HIV/AIDS is a serious crisis in Kenya, and the majority of those who are HIV-positive do not know their status,” Musingo said. “Testing for HIV is only compulsory for mothers who have gone for antenatal care and criminals convicted of sexual offenses like rape. These forms of testing are a small percentage on which to base the national statistics.” WOCCU’s Cooperative Development Program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, supported the launch of an HIV/AIDS peer educator program with Mwalimu SACCO in 2006. The peer education model is based on the idea that groups of members acting as change agents and opinion leaders can be trained to effectively disseminate information and influence their communities. WOCCU and Mwalimu initiated the program in partnership with JHPIEGO, an international health organization affiliated with The Johns Hopkins University. Currently, the Mwalimu Stop AIDS program is supervised by three program managers who oversee the work of 24 peer leaders and 264 peer educators from seven of Kenya’s eight provinces. Additionally, 300 Mwalimu delegates (elected regional SACCO representatives) received introductory training on HIV/AIDS peer education in April 2008. “SACCOs are the hub of individuals’ economic development and almost all professionals and employees have savings programs,” Musingo said. “Life is about buying, selling, saving and saving well. SACCOs, therefore, become the best choice to disseminate this information because all people, including the poor, aspire to have formidable savings accounts.” Musingo was nominated in June by the Office of the President of Kenya to become a member of the National Platform for Risk Reduction. The Kenyan government is encouraging the population to be tested for HIV/AIDS and qualify for free diagnosis and treatment, he said, but the process is proceeding slowly. “In Kenya, there are many other activists, but most of them are women,” Musingo added. “Women are more honest and sincere about life than men. Professional men who are HIV/AIDS activists are very few.”

CUs work to ease hunger during Thanksgiving

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MADISON, Wis. (12/1/08)--Donations to many of the nation's food banks are not keeping pace with increased demand, especially in today's economy. However, credit unions worked to make sure people had enough to eat during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Volunteers from US FCU, Burnsville, Minn., packaged meals for Feed My Starving Children. Each meal was packed with essential ingredients necessary to establish better nutrition and health for children around the world. (Photo provided by US FCU)
Nationally, donations are up about 18%, but demand has grown more--between 25% and 40%, says Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief charity (USA TODAY Nov. 26). Many credit unions had volunteers working to provide food to various organizations. Here are some examples. Employees of US FCU, Burnsville, Minn., volunteered at the Northfield Armory last month to pack meals for Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit that feeds starving children around the world. More than 700 volunteers, including 12 from the credit union, helped pack 171,072 meals consisting of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and vegetarian chicken flavoring. The initiative will feed about 500 children for one year. Madison, Wis., area credit unions collected cash or check donations in their End Hunger at a Credit Union campaign last month. Proceeds will benefit Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin's more than 400 foodbanks. The campaign is part of NBC15's Share Your Holidays campaign. Among the supporters are CUNA Mutual Group, Madison Area Chapter of Credit Unions, and Summit CU.
Security Service FCU (SSFCU) employees Jennifer Gleitz and Derrick Aguilar help Nick Migliore, son of SSFCU employee Rich Migliore, collect frozen gobblers during the annual Turkey Round-Up Nov. 22. The credit union collected more than 200 turkeys for the San Antonio Food Bank to distribute to families in need. SSFCU continued to collect canned goods and donations throughout November, working toward a goal of one million pounds of food. (Photo provided by Security Service FCU)
On the day before Thanksgiving, employees from Service CU (SCU), Portsmouth, N.H., stopped at three food pantries and soup kitchens to drop off hundreds of ready-to-cook turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. All 15 branches of the credit union participated in the food drive. They also collected canned goods and non-perishables for the New Hampshire Food Bank. "For every 10 items collected, we donated a turkey," Lori Holmes, public relations manager for SCU, told local newspapers ( Nov. 19 and Nov. 26). The Idaho Food Bank needed 500 turkeys, and last week, Potlatch 1 FCU, Lewiston, Idaho, stepped up to the plate and provided all 500 turkeys. "We supported the turkey drive last year and this year again," said President/CEO Chris Loseth ( Nov. 26). The turkeys will help fill the food bank warehouse and reach the goal of giving out 2,500 turkeys during the holiday season. Canned yams were the item of interest to San Antonio FCU (SACU) in Texas. SACU collected canned yams to support the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner. The annual dinner feeds more than 25,000 people, including senior citizens and people in need. "This year, even more than in the past, being able to provide a nutritious meal in a festive environment is very gratifying," said Jeff Farver, SACU president/CEO. Pacific Service CU continued its sponsorship of Huckleberry Youth programs by providing meals and snacks for runaway and homeless youth at the Huckleberry Youth Program shelters in San Francisco and Marin Counties, Calif. Steve Punch, president of the Walnut Creek, Calif.-based credit union, noted that the program "is an important resource for kids who feel they have no alternatives to avoid homelessness or running away."