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Internet crime complaints up 33 CUs report scams

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WASHINGTON (4/1/09)--Complaints from victims of Internet crime rose 33% in the U.S. during 2008 from the year before, indicating that the economy's downturn is exacerbating electronic fraud, says the Internet Crime Complaint Center. And a number of credit unions in several states are warning about the latest rash on scams, some of them generated on the Internet. The Internet Crime Complaint Center tracks trends and refers cases to law enforcement agencies for investigation. It announced Monday it had processed a record 275,284 complaints last year, up from 207,000 in 2007 ( Associated Press via The number of complaints filed each month grew as the year progressed and the economy deteriorated. October, November and December were three of the worst five months, the center said (Financial Times March 31). The total dollar loss reported from scams was $265 million, nearly $25 million more than the $239 million lost to Internet fraud in 2007. One-third of the complaints were over electronic correspondents failing to deliver promised goods or failing to pay for goods they received. Another 25% were fraud at auction sites such as Ebay and Craigslist. Men lost much more money to Web-based scammers than women. Among those who lost funds, men lost $1.69 for ever $1 women lost. The center said that differences in the kinds of shopping men and women do online and the different types of fraud they encounter, could be factors in the results. Paul Bresson, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the study indicates that the economy is a factor. Unemployed people in hard times turn to crime while consumers who are pinching pennies are more gullible to too-good-to-be-true schemes. The past two weeks scam alerts and warnings have been sent to local media from credit unions in: Colorado Springs, Colo.; Jay, Maine; Dubuque, Iowa; Chicopee, Mass.; Pittsfield, Mass.; San Antonio, Texas; Beaumont, Texas; and Katy, Texas. They involved scams via automated telephone calls, text messages and e-mails. Many of the credit unions are educating their members and the public about what to do if they are approached with a possible fraudulent scheme.

Michigan Senates altered foreclosure bills good for CUs

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LANSING, Mich. (4/1/09)--A Michigan State Senate panel has presented three foreclosure prevention bills that removed a provision that allowed consumers or borrowers trying to rework their mortgage to take their case to court if a lender wasn’t cooperating with loan modification. The provision was controversial and its removal is a positive development for credit unions, according to the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) (Michigan Monitor March 30). The reworked versions of House Bills 4453, 4454 and 4455 addressed a concern of the Michigan financial services industry that governmental officials could be left to decide whether a lender has cooperated with loan modification, the league said. “The Senate panel’s decision came down to a party-line, 4-3 vote,” MCUL Executive Vice President Patrick La Pine told the Monitor. “Democrats were strongly opposed to stripping the provision that would allow borrowers to take foreclosure proceedings to court if a lender would not modify the mortgage. “Ultimately, it's good for credit unions and other responsible lenders that this was removed from the language, but hopefully the legislation will continue to move forward so its other provisions can assist Michigan homeowners as soon as possible,” he added. State Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), who chairs the Senate Banking and Financial Services Committee, described the bills as a “compromise” and said that although the bills remained a “work in progress,” he expects the Senate to act quickly on the package. MCUL said it will continue to update credit unions as the foreclosure package moves through the state legislature.

Wisconsin CUs urging tax filers to use quick options

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (4/1/09)--Wisconsin credit unions are encouraging tax filers to use direct deposit when receiving their tax returns. When paired with state and federal electronic filing options, this method can deliver tax refunds within days. Consumers can open a basic savings account at a credit union for as little as a $5 deposit. “Although we’re approaching the end of tax season, Wisconsin consumers still have free options available that can save time and money--especially if you’re filing a simple tax return,” said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. “Even for those who get assistance from a tax preparer, there’s no need to pay additional fees to get a refund quickly.” Wisconsin credit unions have assisted at volunteer return preparation sites throughout the state this tax season, operated in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, the state Department of Revenue and AARP. The sites offer free tax preparation, tax education and asset-building strategies, and help filers claim their full refund by using direct deposit. Many filers think the only way to get their refund quickly is through paid preparation firms that charge excessive fees, said the league. Thompson said short-term, high-interest loans like refund anticipation loans (RALs) are heavily marketed during tax time and can drain hundreds of dollars from a typical refund. These loans cost Wisconsin tax filers $21.8 million in 2006--the most recent year for data--in exchange for the promise of a fast refund. Data show that RAL usage increases considerably among Wisconsin taxpayers eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)--a credit for low to moderate-income filers. Nearly 18% of EITC filers use RALs to receive their refunds, compared with 3.4% of all Wisconsin tax filers. EITC-qualifying tax filers who use RALs lost $13.7 million in 2006.

Enterprise Car Sales donates to REAL Solutions

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ST. LOUIS (4/1/09)--Enterprise Car Sales has earmarked a portion of its $50,050 donation to the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) for the REAL Solutions program.
From left, Enterprise Car Sales Assistant Vice President Mark McAndrews and National Marketing Manager Brooke Gilchrist present a check for $50,050 to National Credit Union Foundation Chairman Allan Kemp McMorris. (Photo provided by National Credit Union Foundation)
REAL Solutions, which stands for “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” Solutions, works through 31 state credit union leagues to help credit unions offer services for people of modest means and “low wealth.” “By dedicating a portion of its donation to REAL Solutions, Enterprise Car Sales’ creative promotion helps credit unions provide affordable products that have proven attractive in serving America’s working families,” NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin said. The donation resulted from transactions made during Enterprise Car Sales’ annual Credit Union Appreciation Month last September and from additional funds given by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation. Enterprise announced the donation at NCUF’s Major Donors’ Reception during the Credit Union National Association’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference. With the most recent donation, Enterprise has donated roughly $175,000 to NCUF the past four years. Enterprise specializes in working with credit unions of all sizes to increase auto loan volume.

N.J. ad campaign taking shape for April

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (4/1/09)--The New Jersey Credit Unions' Statewide Advertising campaign will move forward this month with television, radio and print advertising, says the New Jersey Credit Union League. This month, the league will film its first television commercial to air on News 12 NJ, which covers 1.8 million households in the state. Broadcast dates will be announced later. The campaign is sponsoring "It's Your Money," a program that airs on the weekends, and also will air 30-second commercials during normal programming (The Weekly Exchange March 23). The league is also working on a deal to get coverage in areas that News 12 NJ misses and will provide an On-Demand two-minute video about credit unions to cable households. Also this month, the campaign will sponsor a radio contest on 101.5 FM. The contest will award $50,750 to a listener. The money will be deposited in a credit union that the winner is eligible to join. Commercials promoting the contest and credit unions' sponsorship will air throughout the month. Also, ads will appear once a week in Atlantic City's newspaper and once a month on its website.

Serving the Underserved conference speakers announced

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NEW YORK (4/1/09)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions confirmed the keynote presenters for its upcoming 35th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved, which will be held June 11-13 in Phoenix. Confirmed keynote speakers include:
* Donna J. Gambrell, director of the U.S. Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund; * Errol T. Louis, columnist for the New York Daily News, television commentator, and former community development credit union (CDCU) organizer; and * Ellen Seidman, senior policy advisor at ShoreBank, a community development bank.
With as much as $400 million available the next 18 months, the CDFI Fund is poised for the greatest expansion in its history, and Gambrell has played a leading role in the fund’s high profile within the Obama Administration, the federation said. Having served as deputy director of consumer protection and community affairs in the Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Gambrell has led initiatives related to reaching underserved populations; provided guidance to consumers on issues such as subprime and predatory lending; and increased the public's understanding of and confidence in the financial system. A former CDCU organizer and federation program officer, Louis is knowledgeable about issues affecting low-income people and communities. As a regular guest on “Lou Dobbs” and other CNN programs, Louis gave political analyses to national television audiences throughout the recent presidential campaign. Louis is a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Daily News, and hosts the “Morning Show” on radio station AM 1600 WWRL, a weekday political talk show. Seidman also is chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, which helps financial services providers serve underserved consumers. The federation’s conference will offer breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and a site visit to a local CDCU, the $61 million-in-assets, First American CU in Casa Grande, Ariz. For more information, use the link.

CU System briefs (03/31/2009)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/1/09)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation approved a $9,500 grant to the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) for NCUF's REAL Solutions program during its board meeting Friday. The grant will fund services by REAL Solutions Field Coach Vicki Joyal, in providing expertise and support for the program in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association will fund the remainder of the program, including funding for John Kebles, program manager. The grant is effective through June 1, 2010 (Life is a Highway March 31) … * ALBANY, N.Y. (4/1/09)--A team of students from Saranac Lake (N.Y.) High School captured the 2009 New York State
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LifeSmarts title by defeating 11 teams from around the state at the finals competition last week in Albany. The event is coordinated in the state by the New York Credit Union Foundation. The school's team won the championship by successfully fielding questions about real-life marketplace issues, such as personal finance, health and safety, the environment, technology, and consumer rights and responsibilities. From left are Assistant Coach Jemell Ellis-Branch, Alex Beideck, Alexandra Cummings, Mackenzie Davison, Sen. Betty Little (R-Adirondack), Brian Wolff, Team Captain Hillary Pond and Coach Tricia Preston. (Photo provided by the New York Credit Union Foundation) … * YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (4/1/09)--Associated School Employees CU (ASECU) announced Tuesday it has merged with Cavalier FCU, effective today. Members voted to approve the merger of the Youngstown, Ohio-based credit unions earlier this month. ASECU serves anyone living, working or attending school in three counties--Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana--in Northeast Ohio. It has more than $70 million in assets and more than 8,500 members. Cavalier, with about $20 million in assets, served employees of the GM Lordstown Complex and the communities of Lordstown and Newton Falls. ASECU will retain all of Cavalier's employees and its two Trumbull County branches. Cavalier members' accounts will become ASECU accounts. Robyn Darocha, Cavalier CEO, will continue as chief operations officer at ASECU, and ASECU President/CEO Michael Kurish will remain as CEO of the combined credit union … * HEATH, Ohio (4/1/09)--Hopewell FCU went a little further than the typical pig-kissing contests in raising funds for Operation Feed and the Food Pantry Network of Licking County. The $64.1 million asset, Heath-based credit union's fundraiser involved a smooch with a camel. Employees voted--by donating to Operation Feed--for which of their bosses had the honor. Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Jim Johnson was selected and held an animal cracker in his mouth to entice the camel. Johnson told local media the kiss was "great" and that he'd do it again. The camel was provided by a nearby ranch. This year's fund-raising goal for 115 participating organizations is 2.4 million food item points (The Advocate March 27) …