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Fraudulent checks change hold policy at CU

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JACKSON, Miss. (6/12/08)--Seeing a rise in the amount of counterfeit checks in the past six months, Mississippi FCU has decided to implement a new hold policy on all checks that come through the credit union. “We initiated a hold on checks for a longer period of time,” Marilyn Hobson, president, Mississippi FCU, told News Now. “We use our discretion when doing this. It is based on the history of the member.” If a check or circumstance seems suspicious in any way, the credit union will hold a local check for seven days, a non-local check for 11 days--up from the previous hold policy of five days for a local check and seven days for a non-local check. “For example, if someone has an average daily balance of $3.52 for the past year and then brings in a check for $5,200, we’ll put a hold on it,” Hobson said. “Also if a check is for $2,500 or more, we’ll call the financial institution it is drawn on. Not in front of the member, but later on. “We know our members pretty well, so we’re not above saying to them, ‘tell me about this check’ if it seems suspicious. We just try to use a lot of common sense,” she added. Mississippi FCU also goes online daily through a process called “in-view” to see returned check images, instead of waiting three more days to see them in the mail. “It’s wonderful,” Hobson said. The credit union also uses a machine called a “money checker” that employs a light to view the watermark on checks to look for counterfeits, and magnetic strips on bills to check for counterfeit money. “It’s inexpensive, and we use it a good bit,” Hobson said. One of the more prevalent scams in her area involves people receiving letters asking them to be secret shoppers at various stores, Hobson added. The solicitor promises participants money for this, and sends them a check for $4,500. Then the solicitor asks them to send a money order for $3,000 and tells them to keep the $1,500 balance as payment for their efforts. The problem is that the $4,500 check is fraudulent and the participant is out $3,000, Hobson said.

CMN hospitals among Americas Best--USNandWR

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (6/12/08)--Last week's issue of U.S. News & World Reports recognized the Credit Unions for Kids program for its contributions to the Children's Miracle Network (CMN) in its "America's Best Children's Hospitals" edition. CMN partnered with the publication to highlight the teamwork of hospitals, sponsors and media partners working to provide the finest in pediatric health care, according to Joe Dearborn, managing director of Credit Unions for Kids. "America's Best Children's Hospitals" ranks the top 30 hospitals in seven areas: general pediatrics, cancer, digestive orders, heart and heart surgery, neonatal care, neurology and neurosurgery, and respiratory disorders. "We are extremely proud that the top 10 children's hospitals, as selected by U.S. News & World Report, are Children's Miracle Network hospitals," said Jim Hall, CMN president/CEO. "It is support from programs like Credit Unions for Kids that enable these hospitals to provide such world-class, specialized care," Hall noted. Of 143 hospitals considered eligible for the rankings, 113 responded. The research, conducted by RTI International, combines data from a survey of physicians, a direct survey of pediatrics hospitals (including freestanding children's hospitals and children's "hospitals within a hospital"), and other resources. Each hospital's score is based on key components such as outcomes (including mortality rate and readmission rate), reputation, and care-related considerations such as specialized patient services, nursing care and advanced technology. These represent three key aspects of quality hospital care: structure, process and outcomes. For the rankings, use the "America's Best Children's Hospitals" resource link.

CU System briefs (06/11/2008)

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* LIHUE, Hawaii (6/12/08)--Kaua'i Community FCU last weekend warned members and non-members of a vishing scam using the credit union's name. Vishing involves text messages sent to victims using a financial institution's name to try to lure recipients into sharing sensitive information such as account numbers. Potential victims were notified that their account was locked. The message instructed them to call a phone number to restore account access. The credit union worked with Internet security experts to shut down the bogus phone numbers and warned that it would not ask members to submit personal financial information over the phone (The Garden Island June 9) … * PASADENA, Calif. (6/12/08)--Wescom CU is offering reverse mortgages to members who are senior homeowners so they can tap into the equity in their homes, the $3.7 billion asset credit union announced. The reverse mortgage enables homeowners age 62 or older to convert home equity into cash without moving or making loan payments. Wescom will work through Reverse Mortgage Lending (RMLI), its mortgage lending company. RMLI will manage the entire loan process, including counseling, application, origination and funding preparation, then place the loan with a reverse mortgage lender for funding and servicing … * FORT WORTH, Texas (6/12/08)--American Airlines FCU will host an aviation industry celebration, "Fun Takes Flight," June 21 that will honor CEO John M. Tippets' 42 years of service with AMR Corp. and 17 years service to the credit union. Tippets also will sign his newly published book, Hearts of Courage, about his father's 29-day survival after a 1943 plane crash in Alaska. The event will be held at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth. The celebration will include special offers, free educational seminars, and auto show with hybrid cars, and more, and will offer a document shredder so members can shred sensitive documents … * CAPITOLA, Calif. (6/12/08)--To ensure that Bay FCU met its
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fundraising goal for Children's Miracle Network (CMN), 13 employees at the credit union shaved their heads at an employee meeting June 4. Bay FCU donated $35,020 this year to CMN, a record for the $600+ million asset credit union. Senior management donated an extra $1,000 and, at the request of staff, $50 for each staffer who volunteered for the shave. From left are employees Ashton Holtzinger, Dan James, Mauricio Rivera, Tomas Garcia, Chris Hanson, Doug Kuepfer, Linwood Parson, Phil Alberti, Manuel Escarcega, Jordan Behmke, Dominic Bitoni, Bradley Bishop, and Cameron Haste. With them are Kendra Howell (holding check), director of corporate and community development for Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. On the right in red is Carrie Birkhofer, Bay FCU president/CEO. Since 1998, Bay Federal has raised more than $100,000 for CMM. (Photo provided by Bay FCU) …

N. Mexico CUs grow serve the underserved

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SANTE FE, N.M. (6/12/08)--Several Sante Fe, N.M., area credit unions are experiencing growth and are reaching out to serve the underserved, an article in The Sante Fe New Mexican noted Tuesday. Del Norte CU, a $302 million asset, Los Alamos, N.M-based credit union, is designed to serve the underserved and its 42,000 members know that, Guy Lisella, Del Norte vice president of marketing, told the newspaper. The credit union is not designed to collect as many fees as it can, and members can tell the difference in the experience of going to a credit union, as opposed to going to bank, he added. Guadalupe CU, a $69 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, recently opened two new branches--one near a supermarket and the other in the fastest growing part of the city, the newspaper said. The new branch, near the fastest growing area, “offers a fully bilingual staff, financial counseling and nontraditional products,” Guadalupe CU said in a statement. One product is a payday loan alternative with significantly lower costs than traditional payday loans, the credit union told the paper. The Guadalupe branch also offers financial counseling and check cashing for $3 per check, which it says is lower than traditional check-cashing facilities. Permaculture CU, a $3.2 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, makes loans to help sustainable projects that “take care of the earth,” according to its website. The credit union’s membership increased 51% in the past year, Donald Sarich, Permaculture president/CEO, told the paper. The credit union helps members with loans to make their homes and cars more energy efficient, because people are interested in sustainability, Sarich added. Permaculture’s assets also went up $625,000 last year. Northern New Mexico School Employees FCU, a $13.2 million asset, Sante Fe-based credit union, opened its 14th branch in the state, and its first in Sante Fe, during the first first quarter of 2007, the paper said. The credit union expects to start construction on another branch site in late spring 2009, it said. From the end of 2006 to the end of 2007, credit union membership went up 2.83%, according to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico. This growth is due to a new awareness of credit unions that had not been there before and the fact that increasing numbers of credit unions are more accessible to various groups, association spokeswoman Mary Beth King told the paper.

Latino Community CU chair named N.C.s CU person of year

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DURHAM, N.C. (6/12/08)--Latino Community CU (LCCU) Chairman John Herrera received the Ronald J. Hutchins Credit Union Person of the Year Award Monday for his volunteer work in the credit union movement at the North Carolina Credit Union League’s 73rd Annual Meeting. The award is given annually to persons who demonstrate exceptional qualities of leadership in their credit union and who display outstanding dedication to the credit union movement. “Herrera has ‘made it in America’ and now he gives back through his compassion and commitment to his country, his community and his credit union,” said Jim Blaine, president, State Employees CU, Raleigh. Herrera is one of the founders of LCCU in Durham, which provides low-cost products and services to its members, especially low-income members. Herrera is often contacted by organizations seeking advice and support to develop financial institutions that serve the unbanked and immigrant communities, including a Nobel Prize-winning bank that plans to expand its model to the U.S. He is also vice president of Latino affairs for the Center for Community Self-Help, a community development financial institution intermediary, which provides support to community development credit unions that serve minorities. He also is a board member for the North Carolina Minority Support Center. Herrera was the first Hispanic elected to the Board of Alderman in Carrboro in November 2001, becoming the first Hispanic immigrant ever elected to municipal office in North Carolina. He was re-elected in 2005.

AARP study gives poor grades to FIs communication

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TEWKSBURY, Mass. (6/12/08)--Credit unions may want to note a recent nationwide survey that indicates that the financial services industry isn’t effectively communicating with consumers. AARP Financial, a subsidiary of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), found that more than half of adults surveyed said they have made an investment with an unfavorable outcome because they felt confused or didn’t understand an investment. “The relatively straightforward process of saving for the future has become incredibly complicated,” said Richard Hisey, AARP Financial chief investment officer. “As a result, many American investors have saved too little--most with less than $50,000 for retirement--or are too intimidated to get started in the first place,” he said. About 54% said they do not read financial literature because it’s too hard to understand, and 41% said information from financial services companies is not helpful. Two-thirds of survey respondents graded the financial services industry with a “C,” “D,” or “F.” More than 70% said financial professionals use more jargon than their car mechanic, and more than 50% said they use more jargon than doctors. “We’ve made it incredibly easy for Americans to spend and create debt, but unnecessarily difficult to invest comfortably and with confidence,” Hisey added. Respondents said they feel the jargon is intentional. What’s more:
* 54% believe jargon is used to distract people from focusing on the fees they will pay; * 78% said they believe materials from financial companies are more about selling than educating; * 63% said jargon is used to make a product seem more impressive; and * 49% believe jargon is used to make consumers feel less confident that they can handle their own finances.
“No one is well-served by this confusion,” Hisey said. “We talk a lot about transparency in this industry but not enough about simplification and understanding. What value does disclosure bring if the average investor can’t comprehend it?” The survey of 1,203 adults, age 18 or older, was conducted by telephone from Jan. 23 to Feb. 10.

Ohio foundation marks 1 million in grants to CUs

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DUBLIN, Ohio (6/12/08)--Ten years after it began fundraising, the Ohio Credit Union Foundation (OCUF) has passed the $1 million mark in grants made to credit unions. "This is a special milestone that reflects positively on the value-driven mindset and giving nature of credit unions in Ohio,” said Kathy Kanipe, CEO of Parish FCU, Toledo, and chair of the OCUF Board of Trustees. “The Foundation will continue its great work, supported by its board members and hundreds of generous donors, and I see no reason why we will not be celebrating a similar milestone in another 10 years, if not sooner.” The grant that eclipsed the $1 million mark was awarded earlier this year to Chivaho CU, Chillicothe to assist Chivaho CEO Laura Roberts her with her third year of tuition for CUNA Management School. The foundation grants also assisted Roberts with two previous years of management school. She will receive her diploma this summer. OCUF was incorporated in 1997 and began grant making in 1998 to support individual credit unions’ education and outreach initiatives that promote financial independence. It focuses on five major values:
* Promoting financial education to benefit credit union members, Ohio students, and the public; * Helping credit unions implement programs in their communities that fulfill their social responsibility to make financial services affordable and accessible to all members; * Providing professional development grants to assist credit union employees and volunteer leaders; * Offering financial relief to credit unions, their employees, members, and their communities in the wake of natural disasters; and * Empowering people to improve their financial well-being, based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, and equity.
The foundation also supports national credit union efforts and is the third largest contributor to the Biz Kid$ television program. In 2007, it also provided $10,000 to the National Credit Union Foundation to assist California wildfire victims and $5,000 to the World Council of Credit Unions for earthquake relief in Peru. OCUF's 2008 fundraising goal is $280,000, an increase of nearly 60% from the $167,000 raised in 1998. The foundation plans to award $250,000 in grants in 2008.

Land legislation means that PSECU will stay in county

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/12/08)--Pennsylvania State Employees CU (PSECU), Harrisburg, has been approved by the state legislature to buy 47 acres of land in Susquehanna Township for a new headquarters building. The State House of Representatives approved House Bill 2496, introduced by Rep. Sue Helm (R-17th District), to sell the land to the credit union for $3.05 million, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) said (Life is a Highway June 11). PSECU is paying “fair market price” for the land. An appraisal was accepted by the state Department of General Services, the association said. The new headquarters will house 500 employees and accommodate PSECU’s growth for the next 50 years, the association said. The headquarters also will create jobs in the county, Helm told the association.

Members United Corporate board election announced

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (6/12/08)--At its annual meeting on Friday in Chicago, the members of Members United Corporate FCU re-elected individuals to its board of directors. The following will serve three-year terms:
* Terry R. Brahm, president/CEO, DHCU Community CU, Moline, Ill.; * Gary E. Furtado, president/CEO, Navigant CU, Smithfield, R.I.; * Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore, president/CEO, Niagara County’s FCU, Lockport, N.Y.; and * Kyle Markland, president/CEO, Affinity Plus FCU, St. Paul, Minn..
The board also elected officers to serve a one-year term:
* Chair: John T. Fenton, President/CEO, Affinity FCU, Basking Ridge, N.J.; * Vice Chair: Markland; * Treasurer: Louis H. Jimenez, Treasurer/CEO, Montauk CU, New York City; * Secretary: Lloyd M. Fredendall, President/CEO, NorthStar CU, Warrenville, Ill.
Members United’s additional board members are:
* Bruce M. Beaudette, president/CEO, Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y.; * Donald H. Briggs, president/CEO, NorthEast Alliance FCU, Nanuet, N.Y.; * John R. Caulfield, president/CEO, St. Mary’s CU, Marlborough, Mass.; * Andrew L. Jaeger, president/CEO, Credit Union of New Jersey, Ewing, N.J.; * Ronald Linstromberg, CEO, DeKalb Financial CU, Auburn, Ind.; and * Michael Phipps, president/CEO, Evansville (Ind.) Teachers FCU.
Serving as an associate director is Edward J. Gvazdinskas, president/CEO, Heartland CU, Springfield, Ill. Members United Corporate FCU is a $13.8 billion, Warrenville, Ill.-based financial institution that provides service to 2,300 credit unions nationwide.

Oregons OCUL Services announces new board

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (6/12/08)--OCUL Services, the services corporation for the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO), has named a new board of directors and has reorganized its structure. OCUL Services restructured its board to allow having between three and seven board members, with five the target number. The new board includes:
* Chair: Gene Pelham, CEO, Rogue FCU, Medford; * Treasurer: Bill Anderson, CEO, Mid Oregon FCU, Bend; and * Director: Mark Zook, executive vice president/chief operating officer, MaPs CU, Salem.
Stepping down from the board is Carol Cromwell, CEO of Linn-Co FCU, Lebanon.

CUs in Oregon raise 866000 for CUs for Kids

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (6/12/08)--Credit unions in Oregon and southwest Washington raised more than $866,000 during their 2007 campaign for Credit Unions for Kids. The amount is the second-largest collected in the program's 22-year history in Oregon and the Washington area. The funds complete a $1 million commitment made with Doernbecher Children's Hospital to endow the Credit Unions for Kids Professorship in Pediatric Neurology. The funds also complete a two-year goal to raise $50,000 for the NICU Parent Lounge at Sacred Heart Medical Center, Eugene, Ore., and $30,000 for a family waiting room at the Family Birth Center at Rogue Valley Medical Center, Medford, Ore. "Once again, they (credit unions) have gone above and beyond for the children of their communities," said Kasey Rockwell, director of credit union advocacy for the Credit Union Association of Oregon. Rockwell is the statewide Credit Unions for Kids campaign director. Next up: credit unions in Oregon and southwest Washington will raise funds to complete a $1 million pledge to the Doernbecher Pediatric Neurosciences Research Program at the Oregon Health and Science University. The funds will help recruit another researcher to the team, secure core equipment and activate a robust lab, which will be named for Credit Unions for Kids. The group is exploring further fundraising for Sacred Heart Medical Center and Rogue Valley Medical Center.