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Text message phone call scams crop up in several states

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MADISON, Wis. (6/25/10)--Credit unions in at least six states the past two weeks have reported automated calls and texts to cell phones that attempt to capture members' and non-members' debit card and personal identification numbers (PINs). In Washington, EvergreenDirect CU, Olympia, and Our Community CU, Shelton, were targeted in fraudulent automated calls to cell phones that claim the member's debit card was deactivated due to a billing error. Cardholders were prompted to enter their card number and PIN. The accounts were then accessed through ATM activity in Spain (The Olympian June 23). In Wisconsin, Shipbuilders CU, Manitowoc, and a local bank were targeted by automated calls to members' and non-members' cell phones whose numbers began with 901.The block of numbers making the calls was hacked from an answering service and also was used in other areas of the state and country. Phone numbers making the calls were from a variety of 800 numbers and some had area codes from other states (Harold Times Reporter June 17). In Neenah and Menasha, Wis., a large number of residents received computer-generated scam phone calls saying their account with Lakeview CU had been compromised or canceled. They were told to "dial 1" to speak to the credit union's security department. The calls originated from an 817 area code and the name on the caller ID changes. Even residents on "Do Not Call" lists and those with unlisted or unpublished numbers received the calls ( June 16). In Johnstown, Pa., members and non-members of USSCO Johnstown FCU who have AT&T cell phones received the text message appearing to be a credit union security from that instructed them to call a secure phone line in an 814 area code. The credit union posted a notice on its website and e-mailed members it would not request personal information through a text message nor distribute cell phone numbers (Life is a Highway June 16). In International Falls, Minn., fraudsters identified themselves as representatives of a number of local financial institutions, including TruStar FCU. The callers dialed numbers in the 283 and 285 local exchange and some cell phone numbers. Both members and non-members were contacted. Dale Johnson, president/CEO of TruStar, told International Falls Journal (June 16) that law enforcement officials believe there were thousands of calls in the area. A number of employees and their families also received the fraudulent message. TruStar was in the process of converting its ATM and debit card systems to a different processor when the calls hit but the calls will have no effect on the conversion process. A similar scam in West Texas used the name of an unaffiliated Midland, Texas-based credit union and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The credit union received about 68 calls from people who received the text message and learned that three or four had followed instructions in the text messages and provided the information. Normally during a vishing or phishing scam, the credit union receives three or four calls, said local media ( June 17). Similar calls were also received in California in Chico (STAR Community CU) and a credit union in Woodland. In Bloomington, Ill., IAA CU was targeted. The credit unions warned their members and the public that financial institutions do not make unsolicited calls and ask for information they already have.

Ireland Central Bank proposes stabilization plan for CUs

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DUBLIN (6/25/10)--A consultation paper for Ireland's Central Bank has proposed six options for the Irish League of Credit Unions' Savings Protection Fund (SPF) that legislators could consider to address what the bank terms as increasing financial pressures on that country's credit unions. Ireland's registrar of credit unions, James O'Brien, commented in a consultation paper for the Central Bank that the Irish credit union movement has "significant stresses" from loans in arrears. However, the league says credit unions are well-placed to withstand the economy (Irish Independent and The Irish Times June 24). The league's protection fund has about 1% of total assets of Ireland's credit unions, said the Times, which outlined two problems: the amount is inadequate in a widespread economic downturn, and the league's plan is not available to nonmembers of the league and those credit unions don't contribute to the fund. Options discussed include keeping the status quo, providing an external solvency support mechanism to provide short-term support to credit unions in difficulty, and various statutory and voluntary proposals. The Central Bank said it favored the external solvency mechanism, adding that the SPF could act as a "bailout" fund for all credit unions. The league said credit unions had losses on investments, but the vast majority had written off their investment losses in their accounts last year, according to the Independent. Although credit unions have seen an increase in loans in arrears, they take a "responsible approach" with "prudent loan provisions and increased reserves." That means "credit unions are well placed to withstand the current and future difficult economic times," the league told the publication.

Jamaican finance minister lauds CUs for aiding small biz

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (6/25/10)--Jamaica's Finance Minister praised credit unions for assisting small businesses with low interest rates and urged commercial banks to lower their rates to private sector investors, according to a report in a Jamaican newspaper. The comments by Finance Minister Audley Shaw were made during his keynote address as the 33rd Annual General Meeting and Awards Ceremony of the Hanover Cooperative CU Ltd. in Lucea, Hanover (Euclid Infotech---Banks and Financial Institutions News (June 22). He said he supports investment at lower interest rates and questioned why the country's interest rate on loans is as high as 20%-25%, when people all over the world are borrowing at 6% and 7%. He noted that "it cannot go [on] like that." Shaw added that he strongly believes in the credit union movement and what it offers to members, and lauded the Development Bank of Jamaica for its support for credit unions. The bank has been mandated to bring the credit union system under greater regulation while not stifling credit unions' initiative or enterprise, he said.

NY lawmaker CUs promote bill to ban debit surcharges

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ALBANY, N.Y. (6/25/10)--The Credit Union Association of New York and organizations representing consumers and seniors in the state are trying to ban surcharges on debit cards, which are used for consumer purchases and access to government benefits. The organizations joined New York State Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-31) to call for passage this week of a bill he sponsors (S.7267-B) and similar legislation in the state Assembly. The groups also called for the Senate and the Assembly to agree on surcharge legislation and to pass it into law before the end of the session. “Aside from using cash, debit cards are the most financially responsible means for consumers to avoid debt through making purchases they can’t afford,” said Amy Kramer, vice president for government affairs for the Credit Union Association of New York. “In today’s economic climate, the legislature should follow the credit unions’ lead and do all it can to encourage thrift among New York’s consumers. “Our 451 not-for-profit credit unions and their 4.4 million members are also concerned that merchants will discriminate against debit cards issued by smaller financial institutions, resulting in higher costs and less consumer choice,” she added. In 1984, New York banned surcharges on credit cards, but not debit cards, since debit cards were not commonly used. Legislation is needed to close this loophole now that debit cards have become an increasingly common form of payment, according to a release from the press conference. Maine and Kansas have already banned debit card surcharges, and other states are considering similar legislation. “It is a fundmental principle of consumer protection that merchants can’t advertise one price and then charge a higher price at the checkout counter,” Schneiderman said. “But that’s exactly what’s happening when consumers are stuck with a fee just for using a debit card. State law doesn’t allow surcharges on credit card purchases, and it shouldn’t allow them for debit cards either. “Seniors and other consumers are under enough economic stress already: they shouldn’t have to pay another tax just to access their benefits or buy the everyday goods they need to get by,” he added. Debit cards are now used by many New Yorkers to access government benefits like unemployment and public assistance. Social Security payments will be accessed by debit cards beginning in 2013. The bill makes clear that offering discounts to induce customers to pay by cash or check is not prohibited, because this does not present an issue of consumer deception. The Senate bill also permits surcharges if a consumer receives cash back after making a debit card purchase, but only on the cash received, not the entire purchase. State Rep. Audrey Pheffer (D-23) has sponsored a similar bill (A.10430-A) in the Assembly, the press release said.

ICNNMoney.comI IFox BusinessI tout CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (6/25/10) and Fox Business both advised consumers to join a credit union to take advantage of better rates and fees. Fox noted that consumers should “strongly” consider getting a credit union credit card because credit unions charge a lower late fee--a median of about $20--compared with $39 at banks. Large banks tend to charge higher fees, Fox said. The segment discussed how the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosures Act will affect consumers and what they need to know about the act, which was enacted in May. CNNMoney mentioned that credit unions offer better interest rates and rates on share certificates, savings accounts and money market accounts. The article, saying that credit unions offer a “popular alternative to large banks,” also noted the Credit Union National Association’s credit union For more information, use the links.

Shared branches growing among CUs

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BATON ROUGE, La. (6/25/10)--The practice of shared branching at credit unions continues to grow, according to a Baton Rouge, La., newspaper. Nationwide, 1,650 credit unions offer shared branching with 4,000 branch locations. Credit unions are the fourth-largest branch network in the U.S., said The Baton Rouge Advocate (June 17). In Louisiana, where the publication is based, there are 62 credit unions that participate in shared branching. Shared branching in the state was boosted after Hurricane Katrina. Credit unions that participate in shared branching can then take the money they save from not having buildings and staff costs to offer members loans with lower interest rates and certificates of deposit with higher interest rates, the newspaper said. Credit unions also are not “in your face competitive” like banks, according to William Staats, a Baton Rouge banking consultant. It would be hard to find two banks sharing offices, he told the newspaper. He also predicted that technology will reduce the need for physical branches, and mobile banking will increase. The article also noted that the number of credit union locations and the number of credit union members have doubled since 2006, according to the Credit Union National Association.

Women leaders young pros regulators also featured at The 1

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LAS VEGAS (6/25/10)--The growing importance of women’s leadership in credit unions in both developed and developing countries will be highlighted during special sessions at The 1 Credit Union Conference July 11-14 in Las Vegas. The conference is a combined event sponsored by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the Credit Union National Association. The Global Women’s Leadership Network, a WOCCU initiative that promotes peer-to-peer networking among women credit union leaders worldwide, will hold its second annual forum July 11 in conjunction with the conference. Scholarships provided through the network and other credit union sources will allow 11 women from eight countries to join the more than 50 attendees for the open forum discussion and networking activities. Scholarship recipients represent credit unions in Belarus, Brazil, Kenya, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Russia and Uganda. “Through our development work we have seen how important women have become in helping sustain and build credit union movements not only through their institutional involvement, but through participation in savings and lending groups that help support their families and strengthen their communities,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Our goal is to support those current and potential women leaders and help bring their commitment and expertise to new levels of achievement,” he added. “The network provides women with an international network that engages them in professional and personal development.” The WOCCU Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) program also provides special educational and networking opportunities for more than 30 credit union professionals age 35 years and younger. WYCUP, in conjunction with this year’s conference, brings together participants from the U.S., Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Ireland, Kenya, Poland, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago. Five participants will be selected to receive scholarships to attend WOCCU’s 2011 World Credit Union Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Financial regulatory issues will dominate the opening general session July 13, as a panel of global experts discusses current issues and future trends in financial regulations. Regulators from the U.S., Australia and Canada will address common themes and unique challenges in their individual markets, and how regulatory trends are affecting financial institutions worldwide. A second session will follow with economic experts from Australia, the European Union and the U.S. to address corresponding trends.

CU System briefs (06/24/2010)

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* BOULDER, Colo. (6/25/10)--The Filene Research Institute, which focuses on research and innovation to further the credit union movement, has appointed Gerry Agnes, president/CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based Elevations CU, to its Research Council. The council is composed of credit union president/CEOs who play integral roles in the continued advancement of the movement. Agnes will attend an extended conversation and workshop with Filene Fellows about the future of consumer finance and research directions in October. "When searching out new candidates for the research council, we look for credit union leaders with a clear track record of innovation," said Mark C. Meyer, CEO of the Filene Research Institute, based in Madison, Wis. Recently, Agnes also was named to the board of directors of the Credit Union Association of Colorado (News Now May 27) ... * SALEM, Ore. (6/25/10)--The Oregon State Senate has confirmed Rosemary Pryor as a new member of the Oregon Workforce Investment Board (OWIB). Pryor is vice president for marketing and strategic planning at Oregon Community CU, a more than $912 million asset credit union based in Eugene. She has more than 35 years of experience in marketing, communications and strategic business planning. Pryor is also outgoing chair of the Lane Workforce Partnership, the local work force investment board for Lane County. Her first OWIB meeting will be today at noon to 4 p.m. in Salem ... * MADISON, Wis. (6/25/10)--Joyce Wessley, former meeting planner and events coordinator for the Credit Union National Association and for CUNA Mutual Group, died June 18 after a five-year battle with cancer. She was 72. She also worked with the University of Wisconsin Foundation in Madison, Wis., until her retirement in 1994. She then became a realtor for 12 years. She is survived by her husband, Dan; four children; nine grandchildren; two sisters and two brothers (Wisconsin State Journal June 20) ...

SECU agrees to place first ATM on tribal grounds

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RALEIGH, N.C. (6/25/10)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) and the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe in North Carolina recently reached an agreement to place a SECU Cash Points ATM on tribal grounds in Hollister, N.C. The agreement marks the first scheduled installation of a SECU ATM on the Indian tribe’s property, with activation slated for July. The Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe has more than 3,800 enrolled members, with more than 70% residing within a six-mile radius of Hollister. The tribe was recognized by North Carolina in 1965 and is governed by an 11-member tribal council elected by its citizens, with Rev. Ronald Richardson currently serving as chief. The mission of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe is to provide the community with economic, cultural, social, and educational advancements and benefits. The tribe has worked to establish an ATM as part of its ongoing efforts to provide services in the Hollister area. “Our tribe recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of state recognition at our annual Haliwa-Saponi Powwow, the largest such event in the state,” said Richards. “This Powwow event attracts thousands of visitors each year, ranging from tribal representatives from around the nation to North Carolina families and citizens interested in experiencing our culture,” he added. “A SECU no-surcharge ATM will provide convenient access to funds not only for our residents, but also those who visit our tribal community.” Toretta Snipes, SECU senior vice president in Butner, N.C., notes that, “as the tribe works to help develop services in the Hollister area, SECU is happy to assist.”