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Free brochures offered by revamped Hispanic Resource Center

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MADISON, Wis. (1/2/08)--The first 100 individuals who register for the list service at the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Hispanic Resource Center will receive copies of Las Cooperatives de Ahorro y Credito, a brochure written in Spanish about credit unions. The resource center recently underwent a redesign, which “should help visitors find the information they are looking for faster. It segments content for new visitors, new information, networking tools and additional resources,” said Danielle Chatfield, community affairs director for MidStates Educators CU in Columbus, Ohio, and chairman of the advisory group of credit unions overseeing the site’s development. The site has received nearly 250,000 hits since it was launched in February 2005. The news section of the site drives monthly traffic, Chatfield said, but she’s hoping to stimulate more activity on the site’s list service. “Credit unions have had a long history of sharing solutions with each other and that’s what we hope the list service will do for credit unions reaching out to service the Hispanic market,” she said. “And while we’ve had an increase in the number of people and discussions taking place on the list service, we think many credit unions may not be aware of that resource.” Discussion on the list serve has ranged from topics on individual taxpayer identification numbers to international remittance services. “Reaching out to serve new immigrants is one way credit unions can grow their membership,” she said. For more information, use the links.

2007 was the year of the data breach

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BOSTON (1/2/08)--Credit unions won't be surprised to learn that the loss or theft of personal data through data breaches soared to unprecedented levels in 2007. And the trend isn't expected to slow down anytime soon. More than 79 million records were reported compromised in the U.S. through Dec. 18, according to the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). That's almost a fourfold increase from the nearly 20 million records reported compromised for the entire year in 2006 (Associated Press Dec. 30). On a global scale, more than 162 million records were compromised through Dec. 21 both in the U.S. and overseas, compared with 49 million last year, says Accounting for half those records was the TJX Cos. data breach, says Attrition. It estimates that 94 million records--estimates given by Visa and MasterCard officials--were exposed in the TJX breach, which affected customers of discount stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. However, ITRC estimates the number of records compromised was closer to 46 million--the number TJX acknowledged. The two data breach monitors say the theft trend won't end soon because hackers are a step ahead of security, laptops with sensitive information disappear, and institutions are collecting even more data than ever. Hackers are savvy to a major vulnerability--wireless data transmission--and are learning to bypass security safeguards to eavesdrop. Both companies also said there is an increasing number of incidents in which employees lose sensitive data, through inadequate handling or keeping laptop computers with Social Security numbers on them. ITRC Founder Linda Foley and Executive Director Jay Foley made several predictions for 2008 about identity theft trends. Among them:
* Thieves are getting younger and view identity theft as a lucrative career path; * ID theft will continue to grow internationally with more sophisticated scams designed to trick consumers into divulging their ID information. * Expect an increase in the number of breaches due to poor information handling policies and practices. * Studies will continue to contradict each other about victims, cause and effect, facts and overall cost of identity theft. This will lead to confusion, misguided legislation and governmental actions. * Businesses will develop and implement better ID authentication methods for applicants, including Internet and telephone applications. * ID theft will get more recognition as a crime by law enforcement, and more reports will be written to assist victims in their recovery rights. * Expect more legislative action on the issue of ID theft, including limiting the use of Social Security numbers; and * States and nonprofits will be in a better position to assist victims at no charge.

Michigan leads nation for in-school branches

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MADISON, Wis. (1/2/08)--At least 555 schools across the nation operate in-school credit union branches, with Michigan leading the pack, according to year-end data from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). CUNA’s online directory indicates that 169 credit unions in 30 states and the District of Columbia operate in-school branches at all age levels. Several states stand out, including:
* Michigan, with 48 credit unions in 259 schools; * Virginia, with 11 credit unions in 54 schools; * Wisconsin, with 18 credit unions in 42 schools; * Texas, with 13 credit unions in 25 schools; * New York, with four credit unions in 21 schools; and * Massachusetts, with six credit unions in 20 schools.
But because the data is self-reported, the totals are likely understated, said Phil Heckman, CUNA director of youth and young adult programs. “To build a more accurate picture of credit unions’ extraordinary efforts to help youth build a savings habit, I encourage each credit union that should be listed in our director to use our online form to report its involvement and keep its record up to date,” Heckman said. All reported in-school branches are student-run to some degree. Most offer basic savings accounts and limited withdrawals, and require a visit to a full-service office for other services, according to Heckman. Many credit unions tie their branches to personal finance instruction in the classroom and use teller positions to recruit students for internships. Some have even hired student tellers after graduation, he said. The CUNA directory serves as a resource for credit unions that want to open an in-school branch. “It also helps document the degree to which credit unions put other financial institutions to shame when it comes to engaging youth in learning to set financial goals and take control of their financial futures,” Heckman said. For more information, use the links.

CUs ring in new year of financial ed activities

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MADISON, Wis. (1/2/08)--Credit unions are ringing in the new year with financial education programs already underway while others are starting new programs to help members face today's economic realities. Some credit unions are educating consumers in a debt jam with seminars or personal attention. Others are partnering with organizations or teaming with other credit unions and school districts. In Chandler, Arizona, First CU, a $463.7 million asset credit union with 14 branches throughout the state, announced last month it has partnered with Take Charge America, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers with their finances. Their program will offer credit union members new free financial education tools. The services will help members:
* Understand credit scores; * Budget to meet living expenses; * Manage credit card and other unsecured debts; and * Balance checkbooks.
In Florida, Card Services for Credit Unions (CSCU) sponsored a community outreach event at the $479 million asset Suncoast Schools FCU, based in Tampa, to promote financial literacy. CSCU and Visa brought in NFL Pro-Bowler and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks, who worked with Practical Money Skills for Life to deliver his message to more than 600 Tampa Bay youth. The program provides free money management resources and lesson plans for the home, classroom or at work. "Credit unions have always been on the forefront of educating consumers about money management," said Robert Hackney, CSCU president. "The need for financial literacy in America has never been greater, and credit unions like Suncoast are stepping up to meet this challenge." At Telesis Community CU in Van Nuys, Calif. Patty Marcoux, senior business service officer at the $618.2 million asset credit union, breaks up her workday to teach orphaned teenagers how to manage money (Los Angeles Daily News Dec. 24). "It goes hand in hand with what we believe in," Marcoux told the newspaper. "It allows us to teach the kids financial literacy, and that is something Telesis is big on." At Utah's second largest credit union, Mountain America CU, Mick Huerta, bilingual mortgage loan professional, will present a home buying and basic credit seminar series for the public on the first Thursday of each month this year. One of the most important things in preparing for home ownership is to understand how credit works, he said. "Knowing how the system works can help you get better interest rates on credit cards, auto loans and mortgage offers," he said. The Ohio Credit Union League launched its financial education initiative, MoneyAndStuff, in Youngstown. The league sees a direct connection between personal financial illiteracy and the upswing in bankruptcy rates, record debt, and home foreclosures. "We are stepping up our efforts as leaders and collaborators in financial education because the financial health of Ohio's youngest citizens is at risk," said OCUL President Paul Mercer. He noted that credit unions "are investing in brighter futures for the next generation." Ohio's program offers a website resource for parents, educators, public officials, credit unions and the media; targets the most impressionable ages--4 and 5, and 11 and 12; and emphasizes credit concepts and how to manage borrowing. Wisconsin credit unions continue to get kudos for its student program in high schools, says the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Michele Otte, a teacher in the social studies department of Kiel High School, noted that Premier Financial CU, New Holstein, has gone out of its way by providing National Endowment for Financial Education resources and the league's brass/STUDENT PROGRAM personal finance initiative (The League News Dec. 31). For more information about financial education programs, use the links.

Jeffco CU targeted by multiple phish

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. (1/2/08)--Jeffco CU in Lakewood shut down its online banking site Friday in response to an e-mail phishing scam that targeted its members. Members received several waves of e-mails that appeared to be from Jeffco CU, stating that their accounts were suspended or had limited access. The e-mails provided a link to a site that looked identical to Jeffco CU’s main site. There, members were told to enter their account information. The fraudulent sites have been linked to California, Nevada and Eastern Europe ( Dec. 29). Jeffco CU member Carol Byrd said she thought the e-mail was legitimate until she found out that the scammers tried to use her debit card in Romania. The scammers transferred $1,000 from her account. The amount was later refunded after she stopped the transaction ( Dec. 28). The credit union has posted multiple fraud alerts on its website since Dec. 21 and has added an alert to its telephone directory. Jeffco CU is one of several financial institutions in the area that have been targeted by the scam. “The phish attempts are growing. More and more people are being sent these fradulent e-mails. We are making sure that we get all of these fraudulent websites shut down,” according to a statement on the credit union’s website. Members who received the phishing e-mails were encouraged to contact the credit union. Jeffco CU would never ask a member to verify personal information via e-mail or in an online form, and would never need to verify credit card information online, the credit union stated on its website. Jeffco CU has $145 million in assets.