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66 FCU shuts down fraudulent sites phone numbers

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BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (7/11/08)--66 FCU, Bartlesville, Okla., has submitted more than 45 websites and 40 phone numbers to be shut down by servers after scammers sent mass e-mails and text messages, and called members of the credit union asking for personal financial information. Of the credit union’s 47,000 members, 20 responded to the scammers through e-mail and phone. A total of $15,000 was withdrawn from members’ accounts, and the transactions were traced back to Chile, Romania and Spain, Chris Berger, 66 FCU director of marketing, told News Now. 66 has blocked transactions from those countries on members’ accounts. If members are traveling to those countries, they can contact the credit union and ask to have the block lifted, Berger said. The credit union sent e-mails to members about the scams. It also posted examples of fraudulent e-mail on its website--a “small percentage” compared to the total number of e-mails circulating, Berger said. “We try to post as many new ones as possible.” 66 has been affected by e-mail scams before, but this is the first time it has been hit by vishers and fraudulent text messaging. “We were prepared for both,” Berger said. “Nobody responded to the text messages.” The credit union reminded its members that it would never call them or send e-mails with links. 66 also is warning members against using numbers that have an outside area code to call the credit union. 66 has shut down several hundred websites because of scams in the past. The credit union may be targeted because it is prominent in the community, he said. It serves select employee groups--about 60% of Bartlesville, Berger said. Scammers called 90% of the population of Bartlesville--anyone with a 333 telephone prefix. “The fraud entities are getting smarter all the time,” he said. Berger noted that some members are concerned that 66’s data were compromised. Members should be reassured that their data is safe, said Marty O’Connell, 66 FCU chief information officer. “If our database was in fact compromised, then there would be no need for these criminals to send out fraudulent messages, since they would already have all the information that they are requesting.” The credit union encourages members who have been contacted by the scammers to report them. Individuals who suffer losses should file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at https://complaint.ic3.gov, and call 800-VISA-911 to review and block transactions on their credit card.

CUs helping flood-ravaged Iowa members

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (7/11/08)--The Iowa Credit Union Foundation is still accepting applications for aid to help those affected by flooding in Iowa, according to Marybeth Foster, executive director of the foundation. “At this point we have raised about $377,000 and would like to raise another $245,000 to meet the needs we’ve seen through the applications,” she told News Now. “The grants are each $500. The money is transferred from the foundation to the credit union to the member.” Credit unions in Missouri are helping Iowa credit union members affected by flooding with a $4,500 donation. Vantage CU, Bridgeton, Mo., sent an initial donation of $1,000 to the Iowa Credit Union Foundation and challenged other Missouri credit unions to contribute (CourierNet July 9). “I know our bottom lines are tight, but an opportunity to show what we are made of doesn’t present itself in this manner very often,” said Hubert Hoosman, Vantage president/CEO. “Our Iowa neighbors need us.” Other credit unions donating to the effort are:
* Anheuser-Busch Employees CU, St. Louis; * Century CU, St. Louis; * Mazuma CU, Kansas City; * Mid Missouri CU, Ft. Leonard Wood; and * United Consumers CU, Independence.
CommonWealth One FCU, Alexandria, Va., also donated $500 to the National Credit Union Foundation to help credit unions in Iowa. News Now has reported that credit unions in other states have helped Iowa also.

Trend for CUs is toward customized investments

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PLANO, Texas (7/11/08)--Credit unions increasingly are looking for customized investment instruments with higher yields to meet their needs in today's investments market, according to Southwest Corporate. With the economic slump, credit unions are shying away from off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all investment opportunities. "Certainly, structured certificates have a place in the portfolios of many credit unions," said Zane Wilson, vice president of Southwest Corporate Investment Services. "However, more and more find they need flexibility and specific terms to meet their individual needs." More than half the structured certificate investments the corporate has created for its member credit unions in 2008 were customized certificates, specially designed investments known as "reverse inquiries." Southwest Corporate helped credit unions place more than $415 million in investments by creating 38 structured certificates during the first half of the year. Twenty of those were customized. The corporate noted that the growth in the customized certificates began four years ago. Investment information provided by the corporate has increased credit unions' awareness and understanding of customization, the corporate said. When investing, "credit unions should be aware that the highest rate is not always the best alternative," Wilson said. "While rates are certainly important, other factors such as option risk and cash flow play a role in shaping strategic investing." For example, credit unions currently can find five-year investment opportunities but short-term vehicles are more elusive, he noted. "Southwest Corporate is tending to short-term as well as the long-term investments," Wilson said. "With a struggling economy, credit unions should not hesitate to invest in 12- to 24-month durations. "However, with the steeper yield, if credit unions find their loan/asset ratio declining, they may have more capacity to consider longer-term certificates," he added. Cynthia Shi, vice president of portfolio management for Southwest Corporate, noted it creates and offers certificates "based on expectations and trends of where rates are going and what is in the best interest of credit unions." "From an investment standpoint, the first half of 2008 was tough," Wilson said. "Rates went down, then up, then down. Looking forward, (we believe) the housing slump and inflationary expectations will cast a strong shadow on an already sluggish economy. "The Fed will likely be 'on hold' for some time in regards to overnight rates, and credit unions can expect higher term rates over the long term, given the prevailing inflation expectations," he added. "With these conditions, credit unions can venture out in that one-two year range vs. staying in overnight cash."

CU System briefs (07/10/2008)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (7/11/08)--A Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation grant recipient will be honored today for enhancing financial education at Cocalico High School, Lancaster County. Matt Bergman, a teacher there, will receive the Pennsylvania Office of Financial Education's annual "Ripple Effect Award" at the fourth annual Governor's Institute on Financial Education at Elizabethtown College. Bergman used his $2,154 grant to enhance a personal finance course with materials and software. He and three other teachers educated 336 students with 113 hours of financial education, totaling more than 38,000 hours of instruction. The grant "encouraged software use by students involved in a variety of activities that encouraged investment, savings, and even small business/entrepreneurial practices," said foundation Executive Director Joe Wambach. Bergman followed up on a foundation presentation at the institute in 2007 and partnered with LANCO FCU, Lancaster, to implement "an outstanding project," Wambach said (Life is a Highway July 10) … * ST. LOUIS (7/11/08)--The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) met with state Rep. Sam Page (D-82), a candidate for lieutenant governor, Monday to discuss credit union issues and concerns. The meeting is part of MCUA's efforts to better inform candidates about the credit union difference (CourierNet July 9). He is shown meeting with Peggy Nalls, MCUA senior vice president of public/legislative affairs, who also asked for his help in supporting financial education legislation in 2009. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association) … * ABERDEEN, Md.(7/11/08)--Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU ranks as No. 1 in Maryland for youth financial literacy efforts, according to a listing by the National Youth Involvement Board (NYIB). In 2007, the $622 million asset credit union delivered 226 financial presentations to more than 4,500 students throughout Harford and Cecil counties. It also ranked in the Top 10 list for the total number of students reached and presentations delivered in the nation … * MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (7/11/08)--TopLine FCU has added free financial preparedness services for its members and employees through the Financial Choice program from LSS Financial Counseling. "It can be tricky to keep on top of it all, so we look at our partnership with LSS Financial Counseling as another convenient tool to help our members and employees get smart with and manage their money," said TopLine President/CEO Harry Carter. LSS is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and provides face-to-face debit counselor, a counselor-on-call hotline and financial education. TopLine, based in Maple Grove, has more than $250 million in assets ... * ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (7/11/08)--PSCU Financial Services is providing grants for 12 elementary, middle and high schools teacher to attend the 2008 Credit Union Week at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Teacher Institute in Williamsburg, Va. The event supports educational efforts regarding the foundation of the nation’s landmark democracy. Credit Union Week for middle school and high school teachers will be July 23-30; elementary school teachers will attend from July 29-Aug. 5. The interactive seminar equips American History teachers with a fresh approach to communicating the principles of America’s history and system of government, said PSCU Financial Services. The grant provides more than $2,000 for each teacher and covers program admission, room and meals, and a $200 stipend for travel expenses or the purchase of educational materials …

In tight times Mountain America doubles auto loans

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SALT LAKE CITY (7/11/08)--Mountain America FCU has seen a large increase in auto loans while much of the credit union industry has seen a plateau or decline. In April, the $2.7 billion asset, West Jordan, Utah-based credit union ran an auto loan promotion and brought in a record-breaking $110 million in loans--an amount that is nearly double any of its previous auto loan campaigns. “Our best month previous to this was about $65 million,” said Nathan Anderson, Mountain America’s senior vice present of marketing. With a budget of about $10,000 and “Route 66” as the theme, Mountain America ran a full-fledged campaign including newspaper, magazine, radio and television ads, billboards and in-branch advertising. “We put together a full campaign so members and nonmembers alike could take advantage of this opportunity,” Anderson explained. “We wanted our message to be clear and concise, so we really focused on the [4.49%] rate and made sure that people saw it in multiple places.” Anderson noted the creativity of the Mountain America’s marketing department, and said that much of the campaign’s success can be attributed to the credit union’s branches. “Our branch employees really worked hard to give great service, even with the increased volume,” he said.

California DFI raises CU assessment rate

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (7/11/08)--The California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) has raised the assessment rate on credit unions in the state for this year and next year. The 2008-2009 assessment rate was set at $0.59 per thousand dollars of total assets--about a 14-cent or 23.7% increase from last year’s rate of about $0.45, according to a memo sent to California state-chartered financial institutions by DFI Commissioner William S. Haraf. Invoices were mailed to each licensee on June 30, and will become delinquent if not paid by July 21. The statutory maximum rate is $2.20 per thousand dollars of total assets. Haraf also announced that DFI is adding additional benchmarking data from credit union and bank call reports to its website. DFI will update the data each quarter. The data were initially prepared as part of Haref’s due diligence efforts to become familiar with the condition of DFI licensees, he said. The new feature is an analysis of key industry ratios--such as equity to asset ratios, return on assets, delinquencies to total loans--by quintile and size. For each ratio, institutions are ranked from highest to lowest within their size range and divided into five groups or quintiles. Each quintile reports an arithmetical average of the ratios for the group. These data offer a useful measure of the dispersion of outcomes for the state’s credit union and bank licensees, unlike the simple averages previously reported, Haraf explained.

Polish and Slavic FCU grants 300000 in scholarships

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NEW YORK (7/11/08)--The Polish & Slavic FCU (PSFCU) finished off its annual scholarship program this year by donating $300,000 to more than 250 high school and college students throughout the tri-state New York area. Over the past seven years, PSFCU, the largest U.S. ethnic credit union, has given over $1.3 million to more than 800 students. In 2007, almost $300,000 was granted in scholarships to 191 students. With more than 70,000 members, the PSFCU scholarship program annually earmarks about $4 per member toward scholarships. “Time and again, our members have expressed their support for the program and the collective will to grow it,” said Bogdan Chmielewski, CEO. “That’s where our strength is. There are many banks that try to lure our members, but none that are willing to match our program. “There is no better example of how a local credit union can make a difference in this community than helping improve the educational prospects for the young generation,” he added. At a recent event in Brooklyn, PSFCU provided scholarships--ranging from $1,000 to $5,000--to undergraduate and graduate-level students. An independent panel of 12 people reviewed nearly 200 applications before choosing the final 144 winners. Joining forces with the Credit Union Association of New York earlier, PSFCU awarded 115 college-bound high school graduates with scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,750. This marks the seventh year that PSFCU has worked with the league to promote higher education for New York area students.