Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Leagues, CUs prepare for the flu

MADISON, Wis. (4/28/09)--Recent reports of an outbreak of a new swine flu strain have some state credit union leagues reviewing their pandemic planning operations.

There were 40 confirmed cases in five states--including 28 in New York by Monday evening, sparking such actions as school closings in some areas. Outbreaks have been reported in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas (USA TODAY April 27).

"We haven't had a lot of communication with leagues yet, but we're sending out a compliance alert tonight," Valerie Edgington, compliance manager with the Ohio Credit Union League, told News Now Monday. "The alert will be sent to member credit unions, compliance staff and credit union CEOs.

"At a league meeting last week, I had mentioned there were three flu pandemics during the last century, and asked for a show of hands if anyone had [response] plans ready, and there were very few hands raised," she added.

The alert sent out Monday night dealt with pandemic planning and resources, Edgington said. It links to various resources such as a business planning checklist, the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Disaster Preparedness page on pandemic information, and U.S. Homeland Security and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) information on pandemic planning, she added.

The Kansas Credit Union Association (KCUA) also is taking steps to prepare credit unions. "We have issued a compliance alert to our credit unions today," Kim Wheelock, senior vice president of KCUA, told News Now. "We reminded credit unions about the pandemic planning--some of the previous letters--provided by NCUA. We also told credit unions about information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the U.S. Office of Health and Environment."

The Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) has updated it website with information about the swine flu emergency, and provided several links to pandemic- and disaster-related resources, Linda Webb-Manon, director of public relations for the league, told News Now.

TCUL also will publish an article in its daily league publication today to let credit unions know there is information available to them, she added.

The California Credit Union League (CCUL) has nothing to report yet, Matt Buck, CCUL communications specialist, told News Now. "It's too early yet," he said.

CUNA has a long-term business continuity plan (BCP) and has created a BCP Committee, an internal staff committee that addresses the key components of a pandemic or business interruption, Harley Skjervem, CUNA senior vice president of human relations and company pandemic response organizer, told News Now.

courtesy of cuna.org

CU in Oregon closing four branches in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (4/28/09)--Oregon Community CU, based in Eugene, Ore., will close all four of its branches in Portland during the next month, according to local media.

Credit union officials told KMTR.com (April 23) that 26 employees would be affected by the closures.

The decision was a business decision--only 15% of members in Portland actually used the branches. Many members do their banking online banking, said the station.

Officials emphasized the credit union isn't under financial distress and that the institution is solid. However, the economy has hit Oregon hard with more than 12% unemployment, the nation's second-highest unemployment rate.

courtesy of cuna.org

Fin-lit survey results 'disheartening'

WASHINGTON (4/28/09)--About 41% of adults say they'd give themselves a C, D or F on financial literacy, according to the 2009 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey.

Complete results of the survey are scheduled to be unveiled today at a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. One thousand adults age 18 and older participated in the survey.

Other findings:

26% admitted to not paying all of their bills on time;
32% reported that they have no savings; and
33% said they do not put any part of their income toward retirement; up from 28% in 2008.

The report indicated that if the survey results were applied to the general population, it would show that more than 58 million adults do not pay their bills on time, 72 million have no savings, and more than 74 million do not put any part of their income toward retirement.

"These results are disheartening, but certainly not surprising," said Jim Hanson, vice president of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Personal Finance department. "We know that financial literacy challenges are significant among all consumer demographic groups, not just among youth or new immigrants. And while there is no shortage of financial education materials available to consumers, the issue has often been about creating demand for financial education.

"In today's economic market, the demand should certainly be there. Educating consumers about wise money management won't happen overnight. It's a marathon, not a sprint," he added.

The phone survey is conducted annually to gauge the financial literacy of Americans. The results were tracked by sex, age, ethnicity, income level, geographic region, and education and tracked over the three-year period, when available.

In 2006, CUNA formed a Financial Literacy Task Force, which hosted a financial literacy summit in its inaugural year and has issued a report on improving member financial literacy. To see the full report, use the link.

courtesy of cuna.org

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unemployed targeted for work-at-home scams

WASHINGTON (4/27/09)--With the national unemployment rate at 8.5%--a level not seen since 1983--scam artists capitalize on the vulnerability of job-seekers using new and improved work-at-home scams (U.S. News & World Report Apr. 20).

Be on the lookout for some of these more common themes:

Mystery shopper scams. While legitimate secret shopper services do exist, know the signs of a fraud. First, the scammer sends you a fake check, often thousands of dollars, with instructions to deposit the check in your account. You're then told to use some of it to make purchases during your mystery shopping, deduct a commission, and send some funds back to cover fees. If you do, you'll wind up draining money from your own account. Real mystery shopper employers don't send checks before the work is completed, and you're never asked to wire money back for fees to the employer.

Advance fee for small business start-up. Con artists convince you to invest a few thousand dollars and promise to provide you with inventory and materials. The materials rarely arrive, and, if they do, they're completely useless and you're left thousands in the hole.

Pyramid schemes. In these schemes, you're hired as a distributor and you invest in promotional materials and product inventories. They offer you more money for recruiting friends and family as distributors. These are get-rich-quick scams that seem profitable as the pyramid builds, but once it crumbles the only people getting rich are the crooks who crafted it.

To protect yourself from these and other scams, the National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch offers these guidelines:

Know the company you're dealing with and what it is really offering;
Don't believe promises of easy and big profits;
Be cautious about any unsolicited e-mail you receive with offers to work at home;
Get references from others about the business and the work; and
Be wary of any "advance payment" checks. Most legitimate businesses pay you after you do the work.

Always check with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to determine if the business is legitimate. And remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. For more information, read, "If It Looks Too Good to Be True ... Recognizing and Preventing Mail Fraud," in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

Friday, April 24, 2009

Money skills program targets military couples

WASHINGTON (4/24/09)--One segment of Sunday's H&FF Radio show zeros in on military couples, how one or more deployments can throw finances into a tailspin, and what's being done to help them through difficult times.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. EDT on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

"Pre-Nuptial Agreements," with Katherine Stoner, author, educator, attorney, Stoner-Welsh, Pacific Grove, Calif.;

"Divorce: Separating Your Credit While Separating Your Lives," with Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education, Experian, Allen, Texas;

"Military Couples and Personal Finance," with Karen Jowers, staff writer, Military Times, Arlington, Va.; and

"Estate Planning," with Mary Randolph, attorney, author, vice president of editorial, NOLO, Berkeley, Calif.

Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; Western Corporate FCU, also known as WesCorp, and its member credit unions; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve our country worldwide. For more information, read, "Tough Times Series: Services, Sites Help Veterans Navigate Benefits Maze," and listen to "Estate Planning" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

Survey: CU members trust CUs more than banks

SAN DIEGO (4/24/09)--A majority of credit union members--88%--said they trust credit unions more than banks, according to CUTS Performance Marketing, a performance marketing network for credit unions, which released the results Wednesday of a survey conducted in partnership with Kelton Research.

Even for members who use their banks more often, nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) still find credit unions more trustworthy than banks. Also, 61% of members said they enjoy being a member because they believe credit unions will keep their money safe, while 43% find that credit unions adhere to higher standards than other financial institutions (MarketWire April 22).

"It comes as little surprise that most credit union members trust their credit unions more than any other financial institution," said Jeff Plumer, president of CUTS Performance Marketing. "With issues like insolvency and corruption among today's financial headlines, it's no wonder members highly value the benefits and standards of their credit unions."

The survey also indicated that nearly 3 out of 4 members (72%) say belonging to a credit union has more advantages than being a bank customer. In fact, more than one-third (35%) said their preference of a credit union over a bank is one of the chief reasons for joining.

Of the top credit union advantages, 62% said the best one is knowing their money is safe, followed by access to special discount offers on non-traditional products that fall outside of typical banking offerings (55%) and convenient branch locations (51%).

Even though access to special discounts on non-traditional products ranked high and nearly all members (95%) said they trust special discount offers from their credit union, nearly 4 in 5 (79%) still purchase them somewhere other than their credit union.

Only a small percentage of products are purchased directly through the credit union's branch or website, including auto insurance (4%), tax preparation software (3%), event tickets (3%) and personal finance management software (2%).

Still, there is evidence that the availability of discount offers would increase credit union use, the survey indicated. Almost four in ten (37%) members would use their credit union more than they currently do and a majority of members (85%) expressed a desire to see more special discounts from brand-name companies offered by their credit union.

"These survey findings reinforce the immediate opportunity credit unions have to build on the strength of their members' unique trust and loyalty," said Van Barker, CUTS senior vice president. "By offering savings on non-traditional products and services, credit unions can broaden the benefits of membership while further differentiating themselves from other types of financial institutions."

courtesy of cuna.org

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Personal finance guru lauds CUs

MADISON, Wis. (4/23/09)--Credit unions are safe and practice excellent customer service, said Dave Ramsey, a personal finance expert with Gatehouse News Service, in a response in his column to a reader's question.

"Considering the current state of the economy, [my husband and I] were wondering if a credit union would be a safer place than a traditional bank for some of our savings?" a reader asked (Norwich Bulletin.com April 22).

Ramsey said that the National Credit Union Administration increased insurance coverage limits for deposits in 2008, just as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. did for banks.

"The biggest thing you want to look at is the 'hassle factor' if your institution goes broke and closes up shop," Ramsey wrote. "I haven't done business with big banks for years, primarily because of the awful customer service you get at most of them. I like local, community banks, and I believe whole-heartedly in credit unions. As a rule, these institutions practice excellent customer service. Plus, most of them didn't get mixed up the sub-prime debacle.

"Community banks and credit unions are both safe, and in most cases, they're both fabulous places to put your money," he concluded.

courtesy of cuna.org

Credit card debt skyrockets for college students

MCLEAN, Va. (4/22/09)--Credit card debt soared to record levels in 2008 for undergraduate students, now faced with a tough economy and rising college costs.

Young adults accumulated an average of $3,173 in credit card debt attending the nation's colleges and universities in 2008 (usatoday.com April 12). While students may use credit to live beyond their means, a recent study revealed that more than 90% of those carrying plastic charged direct education expenses such as tuition, school supplies, and textbooks (Sallie Mae April 2009).

No matter how credit card debt is accumulated, students are urged to take control of their finances and avoid spiraling further into debt:

Commit to cash. Adding more debt is counterproductive to paying off your credit cards. Commit to stop using credit cards for purchases and use cash instead. If you can't afford to pay for the item with cash, perhaps you can't afford to buy it.

Pay off most expensive debt first. Identify which credit card has the highest APR (annual percentage rate) and pay as much as possible above the minimum payment while maintaining regular payments on other credit card balances. This strategy will reduce the total amount of interest paid over time for all your accounts.

Stay the course. Don't let up as balances and minimum payments begin to shrink. Continue paying as much as you can—more than the minimum payment—for the credit card with the highest APR. Do this and you erase the amount owed on that account faster.

Knock out small debts. Having several small recurring debt payments can add up to a large amount. Pay off installment debts with low balances to free up money for credit card payments and get out of debt faster.

Roll over payments. Once you've paid off the card with the highest APR, use the same amount to increase your payments on the card with the next highest APR. Continue this cycle until all of your credit cards have a zero balance.

For more information, read "Tough Times Series: Gas, Groceries on Credit a Slippery Slope" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center and "Improving Your FICO Score has Benefits" in MoneyMix: Launch Your Life.

courtesy of cuna.org

Corporate CU share guarantee extended

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (4/22/09)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) voted Tuesday to provide an option through its Temporary Corporate Credit Union Share Guarantee Program (TCCUSGP) that would allow quarterly extensions of the guarantee through December 2012.

Under the two-year rolling expiration date, the final guarantee would expire Dec. 31, 2014.

Twenty-three corporates are currently participating in the guarantee program. The NCUA also reopened program enrollment until May 15 to give the remaining four an opportunity to consider participation in the revised TCCUSGP. The agency said its actions Tuesday include revisions to TCCUSGP agreements with corporate credit unions to eliminate ambiguities, provide greater flexibility and improve operations.

"The action of the NCUA board sends a clear signal to natural person credit unions that their investments in corporate credit unions are not only safe, but also meet sound asset liability management principals by providing for orderly laddering of these investments," said NCUA Chairman Michael Fryzel in a statement.

He added, "It is important that they continue to provide the liquidity that is needed to maintain corporate stability. The board is committed to the safety and soundness of all credit unions and the protection of the deposits of the 90 million credit union members, and we will continue to take the necessary action to instill confidence in the system."

courtesy of cuna.org

CUs help youth celebrate the 'magic of saving'

MADISON, Wis. (4/21/09)--Credit unions are helping youth celebrate the "magic of saving" during the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) National Credit Union Youth Week, which kicked off Sunday and continues through Saturday.

Youth Week began in 2001 as an opportunity for credit unions across the country to focus on the financial needs of young people and provide financial literacy education," said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica. "The Savings Challenge was then added in 2004 as an opportunity to bring youth to the credit union to open new accounts or make deposits into existing accounts."

For the first time, the Savings Challenge will run throughout April. During the challenge, credit unions invite youth to open savings accounts and deposit their money. Ten credit unions also will win $100 each to pass along to their youth.

"This year's theme [The Magic of Saving] celebrates the magic of one of the most basic, albeit most fundamental, pillars to financial independence," Mica said. "Now more than ever, it is vital that credit unions emphasize the importance of saving to our nation's youth to build for their future financial health and freedom."

Foreclosures up 24%; avoid losing your home

IRVINE, Calif. (4/20/09)---A report released last week revealed that one of every 159 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the first quarter of 2009, representing a 9% increase from fourth quarter 2008, and a whopping 24% increase from one year ago (RealtyTrac April 16).

The figures for first quarter 2009 were the highest monthly and quarterly totals since RealtyTrac began releasing foreclosure data in January 2005.

Thousands of homeowners are in fear of losing their homes during this difficult economic slump, due to higher adjusted monthly payments, layoffs, insufficient emergency funds, excessive debt, toxic mortgages, mortgage rescue scams, and more. Regardless of the reason, if you are vulnerable it's critical you take action immediately:

Call your lender--now. Face the problem head-on and take initiative, which shows you're acting in good faith. The longer you wait to make the call, the harder it will be to develop an action plan to save your home.

Explain your situation. By coming clean, you'll open discussion about available options, such as a reduction in interest rate, lower monthly payments, or a repayment plan that fits your budget.

Know your rights. Find out the specific foreclosure laws and time frames in your state. Do an Internet search for "state government housing office." Sift through your loan documents to determine what the lender can do if you don't make your mortgage payments.

Know how to spot a rescue scam. Con artists use half truths and outright lies to promise a solution, and then fail to deliver. Watch for messages like, "We guarantee to stop your foreclosure," and "We can save your home, free consultation," and "We can stop foreclosures this week!" They get your name from public foreclosure notices in newspapers and in public files at local government offices. Be suspicious of unsolicited personalized letters promising speedy relief.

Find legitimate help. Besides contacting your lender, get help from a reputable credit counselor by calling 800-388-2227. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling has a Homeowner Crisis Resource Center at nfcc.org.

For more information, listen to "Rising Rates--Safeguard Your Home by Maintaining Mortgage Payments and Avoiding Foreclosure" and "Find Foreclosure Counseling" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

CEOs expect reversal in consumers' savings habits

PLANO, Texas (4/20/09)--Credit union CEOs are expecting their members to respond to economic uncertainties with a sharp reversal in savings habits, according to results of the April 2009 Credit Union CEO Confidence Survey, conducted by Southwest Corporate FCU, Plano, Texas.

Share deposit growth expectations for the next six months climbed 15.38 points from the last report, compared with a drop half that size for the previous three quarters combined (LoneStar Leaguer April 17).

The share growth barometer offered some hope in an otherwise unenthusiastic economic outlook, said the corporate. Projections for loan demand in six months declined to -3.75 from zero in November, and the overall CEO Confidence Index landed at its lowest level in five years, falling to 7.9 in the April report from 10.5 in November.

"Had we not lowered savings rates, share growth was tracking at a 60% increase this year," said Steve Rasmussen, president of FAA CU, Oklahoma City, Okla. "I expect loan demand to remain steady throughout the year, and possibly increase slightly as a result of indirect lending. We have, however, projected higher delinquencies and charge-offs."

His region of the country is fortunate, compared to some, he acknowledged that members are feeling the pinch. "The general atmosphere is not overly optimistic for 2009. Most members are just looking to get through this year," he added.

More so than in the past, CEOs registered weakening certainty in their own institutions' financial condition in the April report, lowering marks for their current position by 13 points and for their projected position six months from now by 10 points.

CEOs also recorded a further decline in confidence for their members' current financial condition, with the index falling 3.33 points to -5.37 this quarter. Members' financial conditions in six months also dipped further into the negative range, to -10.59 in April from -10.46 in November.

"Given the current state of affairs, these results are not surprising," said Brian Turner, Southwest Corporate's director of advisory services. "Lower market rates and higher loan delinquencies are contributing to lower asset yields and tighter net interest margins. Add to that recent and pending write-downs associated with the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, and you get less-than-stellar optimism.

"Share growth is positive, but could be transitional," Turner added. "Credit unions typically experience the highest concentration of shares during the first quarter, and loans generally half that growth over the next three quarters. Many economists anticipate weak loan demand for 2009, however, so the short-term financial result for some natural person credit unions may be unprecedented.

"The good news is that early signs indicate the downward trend in the economy is beginning to slow," Turner continued. "Many market economists project higher interest rates by the end of this year, which will continue--and possibly accelerate--over the next few years.

"Higher interest rates underpin an expectation that the economy will rebound, stronger loan demand will return, and net interest margins will begin to widen. Unfortunately, most credit unions likely will have to wait until 2010 to fully experience that result," he concluded.

courtesy of cuna.org

What's ahead in Congress this week

WASHINGTON (4/20/09)--Congress is back in session this week after a two-week break. Both senators and congressman are expected to take up issues of interest to credit unions.

The House Financial Services Committee is expected to consider and vote on Rep. Carolyn Maloney's (D-N.Y.) bill that aims to curb abusive and deceptive credit card practices. The panel also may mark up legislation on predatory mortgages.

Maloney's bill would require credit card companies to give 45 days' notice prior to an interest rate change and prohibit credit card companies from increasing rates on existing balances except under certain circumstances. A similar bill has been introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) in the Senate.

On the Senate side, the Credit Union National Association has continued to work for modifications in pending legislation that would allow bankruptcy courts to modify, or "cramdown," terms of existing mortgages.

On March 5, the House voted 234-191 in favor of H.R. 1106, Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which contained cramdown provisions. CUNA strongly opposes the House bill and has continued to work in the Senate for changes before that chamber votes on the measure. CUNA believes there is an opportunity to limit the scope, application and duration of the legislation.

Though CUNA does not support the cramdown provisions in H.R. 1106, it does support another provision that would make higher share and deposit insurance ceilings permanent.

Although H.R. 1106 is highly controversial in the Senate, a vote could be called within the next few weeks.

courtesy of cuna.org

Friday, April 17, 2009

Warn members about skimmers, 'Grandma, it's me' scams

MADISON, Wis. (4/17/09)--Credit unions may want to warn their members about two types of scams circulating recently: ATM skimmers and scammers preying on older consumers by posing as a grandchild in trouble.

ATM skimmers, which are attached to ATMs or terminals to read unsuspecting consumers' card data as they use the machines, have seen attention the past two weeks.

Skimmers at three JPMorgan Chase & Co. ATMs--two Chase-branded ones in New York and a Washington Mutual-banded one in West Hollywood, Calif.--were discovered and reported by consumers using the machines (American Banker April 15).

The Chase-branded skimmers mimicked the translucent green material used to make the card slot in the NCR Corp. machines. The one in the WaMu machine was made from opaque gray plastic.

Since the cardholder's data personal identification number (PIN) isn't stored in the card's magnetic stripe, the skimmer must be paired with a camera on or near the ATM to record the numbers the consumer types on the keypad. One consumer, who didn't spot the skimmer until his card snagged on it, found a camera behind a mirror stuck on the ATM (Bank Technology News April 13).

The latest scam circulating in Ohio is the "Grandma, it's me" scam, says the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination Newsletter April 15.

Scammers call unsuspecting seniors and in a highly excited or anxious voice say, "Hi Grandma/Grandpa, it's me." The senior will reply with the name of their grandchild (for example, "Oh, Johnny, what's wrong?") The scammers pick up on whatever name the victim uses and pretend to be a grandson. The "grandson" claims to be in trouble and needs money wired immediately to bail him out of jail or for a hospital bill.

"This is a financially and emotionally devastating scam and has occurred throughout Ohio," said the league. "Routinely educate your staff and members about circulating scams to avoid others falling victim."

courtesy of cuna.org

Despite economy, CUs opening new branches

MADISON, Wis. (4/17/09)--The economy hasn't dampened some credit unions' plans for expanding. A number have announced new branches recently, despite the recession.

Most of the branch openings are the result of long-time planning; others are acquired through mergers.

The latest comes from Denver, where Public Service CU (PSCU) has announced it will open two new branches--in Brighton and Greeley. One is the result of an April 1 merger with Brighton Cooperative FCU. The other had been planned for some time.

"We are excited to now have the opportunity to serve these two communities," said David Maus, president/CEO of the more-than-$1 billion asset credit union, in a news release (PRNewswire April 16). "It's important to provide people a safe and secure choice in these troubled economic times."

Tyndall FCU, Panama City, Fla., announced Wednesday it will expand into Dothan, Ala.--its first physical presence outside of Florida. The $940 million asset credit union had received approval earlier this year from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to expand into Houston County, which includes Dothan and surrounding communities. It now has the ability to serve 10 counties in two states.

Tyndall plans to enter the Alabama market with two branches, ATMs and drive-through banking along with its full service website. Its goal is to have the branches operating this summer. The two Dothan branches will join branches in nine Florida cities (WMBB News 13 April 15).

Catholic CU, a $169 million asset credit union based in Yakima, Wash., has signed an agreement to open an in-store branch at a new Wal-Mart in West Valley. The new branch will have extended hours, including hours on Saturday (YakimaHerald.com April 16).

Texans CU, based in Richardson, Texas, recently held the grand opening of its Carrollton branch, an event that attracted more than 300 people (LoneStar Globe April).

In January, the New Mexico Educators FCU opened its 14th branch office to better serve members in Albuquerque's South Valley, according to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico's newsletter, CUANM Network (March). The full-service office replaced a former branch two miles away. It held its grand opening on March 7 with about 300 members and prospective members.

Polish & Slavic FCU, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened its sixth branch in New Jersey to keep up with members' mobility--many are moving out of the Brooklyn area.. The Trenton branch will serve Central New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.

In Franklin, Ohio, MidFirst CU Inc., is opening its first office, a full-service location that will employ five people--in Kettering (tcnewsnet.com April 16). The Kettering office will help MidFirst continue to expand into the Dayton area, James Miles, president/CEO, told the publication. "It's a competitive market," he said, adding the credit union has already developed a strong foothold in

courtesy of cuna.org

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Job-hunting tactics for this recession

WASHINGTON (4/15/09)--The federal government recently announced that the national unemployment rate was the highest in 25 years (U.S. Department of Labor April 3). The 8.5% rate for March means that two million workers have lost their jobs since New Year's Day.

Worse, these losses come after the disappearance of three million jobs last year.

Although the numbers suggest that it's not exactly a good time to be looking for work, job seekers have an advantage not widely available to previous generations of job seekers. Here, courtesy of the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance, are some job-hunting tactics that take advantage of the best job search tool ever:

Go ahead--advertise yourself online. Sites that allow job-seekers to post searchable resumes are all the rage. They give your "hire me" appeal enormous reach. But the increasing popularity of this approach forces people to go to extremes to stand out--have you shot your "hire me" video yet? By all means, post your resume on as many serious sites as you can. However, that's only a small part of the Internet's value to the unemployed.

Reach out online. Many job openings are not advertised. Using personal and professional contacts has always been important for job seekers. Now the Web makes it easy to reach out to any and everyone you know--and through them, their contacts as well--through online social networks. Announce that you're looking for work and ask them to tell you about any openings that might be a match for your background and skills. Each online group you join will increase the potential flow of job alerts.

Research online. Stay up to date by following your industry's news online daily. Explore the websites of companies you're interested in for information to strengthen your applications. Anything that tells you about prospective employers' product and service lines, competition, and announced plans can help you customize your resume and tailor your cover letter to individual job openings. And when you do get an interview, your research will allow you to talk about your potential value in specific and concrete terms.

Remember, prospective employers are not looking to help you out. They're looking to help their companies. Your best sales pitch will connect the dots between your skills and experience and a company's goals, making your hire seem like a good investment. Use the Internet to locate job openings, sharpen your applications, and dazzle interviewers with your command of an employer's current needs and your ability to fulfill them.

For more information, read "Unique Job Benefits Help Employees, Employers" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

CUs maintain strong presence in auto lending

ONTARIO, Calif. (4/15/09)--Credit unions continued to maintain a strong market presence in the auto lending arena in the first quarter of this year, with a 24.8% market share in February, according to CUDL.

CUDL is a point-of-sale and indirect auto lender for credit unions. It became the third largest lender of auto loans in January, behind Chase Auto Financing and Toyota Financial Services.

About 936 U.S. dealerships closed last year due to lack of financing. Lenders who relied on asset-backed securities to make auto loans have run out of funds because there are fewer financing sources, according to Joe James, CUDL market research analyst.

Credit unions continue to lend, even though some major lenders do not. Auto loans make up one-third of credit unions' portfolios, James said.

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler were the top cars financed in the first quarter of 2009 on the CUDL platform, at 19% and 18%, respectively. This is because of the Invest in America program, James said. Invest in America is a credit union auto loan discount program that offers incentives to credit union members who buy qualifying GM and Chrysler vehicles.

Credit unions have seen an increase in charge-offs and delinquencies, but it's much lower than that of banks, he added.

"Credit unions are still offering low [interest] rates to members," James said.

Loan terms also have shifted. Right now, 60-month loans are the most common for credit unions--a shift from 72 months last year. "Credit union members are seeking shorter terms," James said.

courtesy of cuna.org

NBC affiliate discusses using CUs vs. banks

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (4/15/09)--A local NBC affiliate, 14 WFIE, asks the question, "Should you use a bank or a credit union?" and credit unions received several positive comments.

The article quotes Todd Mark with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, who notes that it's a fundamental financial decision. He points out that banks are for profit and credit unions are owned by their members. "They're not looking to turn that profit for shareholders. It's going back to you as a member," he said.

The station also interviewed credit union members Chasity Crawley, who used her credit union to buy a car because it had a cheaper interest rates, and Birdie Reyes, who said she earns more on her savings accounts.

The recent average rate on a bank savings account was 0.36%, while it was 0.54% at credit unions, the station said. The differences add up, especially with big purchases, Mark said.

The only positive thing mentioned about banks was convenience in number of branches and ATMs, but the article also pointed out that credit unions are joining ATM networks.

courtesy of cuna.org

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Youth Week begins Sunday

MADISON, Wis. (4/14/09)--The Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) National Credit Union Youth Week kicks off Sunday, with more than 400 credit unions signed up for the savings challenge.

About 435 credit unions have signed up as of Monday morning, said Lin Standke, CUNA Youth Week manager.

The Savings Challenge takes place during Youth Week. During the challenge, youth deposit money into savings accounts at credit unions. Credit unions also can win $100 from CUNA for one of their youth members.

Last year, more than 76,500 young members deposited nearly $12 million into their accounts. About 6,748 were new accounts.

This year's Youth Week theme is "The Magic of Saving."

Several credit unions have planned activities:

Aberdeen Proving Ground (Md.) FCU is hosting a month-long series of promotions for Youth Week. Magicians will appear at the credit union's branches Saturday, and a "Magic of Saving" contest will run all month long. Members 18 years and younger can participate to win $100 cash or a $250 savings bond;

Marshall (Mich.) Community CU will host a Kids Day event April 18 with a Bike Safety jamboree, a magician, and a presentation on managing money for kids and adults. Youth also can enter contests to receive $50 savings bonds and tickets to local amusement parks and events;

Prime Financial CU, Cudahy, Wis., will host a coloring and essay writing contest. When youth make deposits to their savings accounts, they also will be enrolled to win $100; and

The Michigan House and Senate declared April to be Financial Literacy Month (Michigan Monitor April 6). The Senate resolution was co-sponsored by State Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and State Rep. Andy Coulouris (D-Saginaw).

The Michigan Credit Union League's Financial Literacy Legislative Challenge also is underway and credit unions can partner with a lawmaker in their district to host an education event. The program builds relationships between credit unions and lawmakers through presentations to students or visits to student-run credit union branches (Michigan Monitor April 6).

So far, about 18 lawmakers have expressed interest in partnering with a credit union, the league said.

courtesy of cuna.org

GM extends Invest in America to end of year

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (4/14/09)--General Motors (GM) has expanded its participation in Invest in America until Dec. 31. Previously, GM planned for the promotion to run through the end of March.

Invest in America is a credit union auto loan discount program offered by GM and Chrysler. Under the extension, consumers will receive discounts on any eligible new vehicle through the end of the year.

"As over 1,200 credit unions continue to promote the 'Invest in America' credit union member discounts, the automakers are seeing great results with first-time and returning buyers," said David Adams, CUCorp CEO. "This is causing them to take this program serious. The contract extension reflects GM's satisfaction with the program and we continue to hope for a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership between GM and credit unions."

Chrysler is offering a Credit Union Member Cash Discount through June 30. Invest in America launched in December.

More than 73,000 vehicles have been sold through the Invest in America program, according to the Invest in America website, lovemycreditunion.org.

courtesy of cuna.org

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tax tip: E-file your request for an extension

WASHINGTON (4/13/09)--If you need more time to complete your tax return, send your extension request electronically by April 15, which will give you until Oct. 15 to file the return, says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (April 7).

This year, there are no income restrictions for filing your taxes electronically at no cost from your home computer. Use FreeFile or FreeFile Fillable Forms accessible on the IRS website. And both options allow you to e-file a safe, secure and convenient request for an extension to file.

Don't confuse an extension to file with an extension to pay any taxes due. If you owe money to Uncle Sam, you must pay the IRS by the April 15 deadline or you'll be charged penalties and interest.

The IRS estimates that almost 10 million filers will request an extension this year, and 1.9 million of those will be filed electronically. As of April 3, the average refund totaled $2,705, up from $2,436 for the same time period in tax year 2008.

To file an extension, use IRS form 4868, Automatic Extension of Time to File.

For more information, read "Tax Tips for Tough Economic Times" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

Conficker worm has been reprogrammed

NEW YORK (4/13/09)--The Conficker worm, which infected three million to 12 million computers worldwide, has been reprogrammed to make it stronger while it seeks to control more computers, reported Computerworld Thursday.

The worm, dubbed the Internet's No. 1 threat, takes advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft software that permits it to infect computers forming a huge "botnet" or suite of machines to send spam and attacks against websites. However, the worm needs to receive new instructions to continue attacking. It does this by picking up instructions on a website or by receiving a file over a peer-to-peer network (P2P).

The security community had succeeded in hampering Conficker in getting directions via a website, but late last week, researchers at two organizations noted some computers infected with Conficker received a P2P binary file. The new file tells Conficker to contact MySpace.com, MSN.com, eBay.com, CNN.com, and AOL.com. The P2P function indicates more sophistication.

The new update, which is programmed to stop running May 3, tells Conficker to contact a domain affiliated with another botnet, called Waledec, which was used to send spam and grew similarly to the Storm worm. Security experts said that indicates the same group is linked to all three botnets.

So far, the worm hasn't been used for malicious purposes. The two organizations that discovered the reprogrammed binary update said their findings are preliminary because they're still analyzing the update.

Perimeter, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, has a blog about the latest Conficker update. Use the link to read the latest.

courtesy of cuna.org

Fake CU also prompts alerts in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/13/09)--The Pennsylvania Department of Banking has issued a consumer scam alert about an entity calling itself "First Star Lending Services" and "First Star Credit Union," believed to be the same entity that received a cease-and-desist order from a Michigan regulator last week.

The Pennsylvania department warned about an apparent advance fee loan scam using the names at www.firststarlendingservices.com (Life is a Highway April 10).

Two consumers said they applied to the company for loans ranging from $7,000 to $10,000. When they were asked to pay several hundred dollars in upfront fees to receive their loans, they became suspicious and did not send any funds.

The companies claim to be located at 1800 Loucks Rd., Suite 850, York, Pa. However, no such address exists there. First Star Lending Services claims to offer first and second mortgages, consumer loans and other financial products, but it is not licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking. There is no First Star CU chartered by state or federal regulators said the department.

Friday News Now reported that the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation issued a cease-and-desist order against a fake credit union, "Firststar CU," claiming to be a Pennsylvania-based credit union. OFIR said the institution is a fraudulent financial institution (News Now April 10).

courtesy of cuna.org

Friday, April 10, 2009

Radio guest offers small biz start-up tips

WASHINGTON (4/10/09)--High unemployment and massive layoffs are steering many Americans toward starting a small business. Do your homework, and think "future" before you take the plunge, according to one of the guests on Sunday's H&FF Radio show.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. EDT on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

"Turning Points--Think 'Future' when Starting a Business," with Susan Tiffany, director, personal finance information for adults, Center for Personal Finance, CUNA, Madison, Wis.;

"Sustainable Home Ownership: Future Role of Government," with Lisa Ransom, vice president of federal affairs, Center for Responsible Lending, Washington, D.C.;

"Low-Income and Minority Financial Services Concerns," with Stephanie Bittner, consumer credit counselor, and National Foundation for Credit Counseling's "Counselor of the Year," Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley, Philadelphia; and

"Credit Card Reform," with April Brenslaw, director, consumer regulations, Office of Thrift Supervision, Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C.

Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) and its member credit unions; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

For more information, read "Make the Move to Small-Business Ownership" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

WSJ: Bank's card fee hike prompts move to CU

NEW YORK (4/10/09)--Tamara Smith of Burlington, Vt., told The Wall Street Journal Thursday she is opening a new credit card account with a credit union instead of a bank to protect herself from banks' pursuit of higher interest income.

Smith reacted to a Bank of America notice that her 7.9% interest rate would increase to nearly 13% by calling the bank to opt out of the change. That allows her to retain the 7.9% rate, but prevents her from using the card for new purchases, which would trigger the higher rate on her full balance of approximately $2,000.

Bank of America recently announced plans to raise interest rates to double-digit levels for credit-card customers who carry a balance every month instead of paying off the card in full. The bank attributed the move to higher costs for offering credit,.

Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and American Express Co. already have implemented similar policies, which typically allow cardholders to opt out of higher rates by ceasing to use the card or closing the account. Financial educators encourage consumers who face increases to pay down balances, but warn against closing accounts because it can negatively impact credit scores, said The Journal.

Banks are increasing rates now to avoid new regulatory limits on credit-card increases that take effect in July 2010. Congress is pondering bills containing stronger restrictions with a shorter timeline. Banks have protested those proposals, claiming tighter rules would force them to restrict access to credit and promotional rates.

courtesy of cuna.org

Michigan fraudster pretending to be CU is closed

LANSING, Mich. (4/10/09)—The Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) has slapped a cease-and-desist order on an entity claiming to be a Pennsylvania-based credit union, but which the regulator believes to be a bad actor stealing both money and identities.

OFIR alleges that "Firststar CU" is a fraudulent financial institution, which advertised in Michigan newspapers and encouraged customers to apply for loans by providing upfront payments and personal information. It also advertised via a website, which was shut down after OFIR contacted the Web host.

The state regulator urged consumers to have personal contact with a financial institution before entering into a business contract. It also recommended that consumers with questions could verify the identity of credit unions, banks and thrifts, through state or federal regulators.

The Firststar case represents the second time in less than a month that Michigan's credit union regulator has issued a cease-and-desist order against a fake online credit union. In March, OFIR discovered a bogus credit union called Communal CU of Dearborn after consumers complained about its website.

OFIR said that scam artists were promoting the fake credit union on the Internet to consumers looking for a break on a loan or wanting to refinance their mortgage. Consumers told OFIR they were asked to provide two pay stubs, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers, information that could be used for identity theft and unauthorized access to financial and card accounts.

courtesy of cuna.org

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home prices collapse at record levels

NEW YORK (4/6/09)--A report released last week confirmed bad news for homeowners: Prices in the worst-hit metropolitan areas have plummeted nearly by half, and the worst may not be over (The New York Times April 1).

The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index, considered an authoritative monthly gauge of big-city home prices, focuses on 20 metropolitan cities. The January report released March 31 cites Phoenix home prices down 48.5% from its June 2006 peak. Home prices in Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego have dropped more than 40%. Dallas received the best rating of the cities in the index with a decline of "only" 10.8% from its peak.

Nationwide, average home prices were down a record 19% and appear to continue on a downward spiral (DallasNews.com April 1). Real estate professionals urge caution because not all housing markets are severely depressed; some indices may be tilted by an overabundance of foreclosed homes in any one area.

When the value of your home declines, typically your equity declines, too. Many families who tapped a home equity line of credit are now upside-down in their mortgages--they owe more than the home is worth. Add to the equation some adjustable-rate mortgages that came due when rates were higher, as well as the depressed economy, and consumers may be facing a record number of foreclosures (RealtyTrac 2009).

If you're facing or worried about the possibility of foreclosure, take immediate action (University of Florida IFAS Extension, March 4):

Get organized. Create a statement of income and expenses, as well as a list of all obligations you owe.

Seek local help. Your credit union, Housing and Urban Development-approved counselors, or local Cooperative Extension service may offer help developing budgets, action plans, or financial statements.

Contact your lender. Show paperwork detailing a picture of your current financial situation. Discuss options before the situation worsens.

Your lender may offer any number of options to avoid foreclosure:

Grace period. This option allows you to get caught up on your payments over a certain period of time.

Contract renegotiation. You may be able to change the monthly payment amount or payment schedule.

Payment foregiveness. Your missed payments from the past are forgiven, but you're expected to make all future payments on time.

Mortgage modification. Your past-due payments are added to your unpaid loan balance, which extends the time it takes to pay off the loan amount, as well as total interest payments.

Special forbearance. The lender may agree to reduce or suspend your regular monthly mortgage payment. Or, you may be required to increase your payments for a period of time to get caught up on past due payments.

Sell your home on your own.

Short sale. The lender may agree to let you sell your home for less than your mortgage balance, but you'll be required to pay back the difference between what you owe on the original debt and the short-sale proceeds. This option may be better than foreclosure, but remember that you'll owe income taxes on any amount your lender forgives.

If you abandon your home, you may not qualify for assistance, so talk through all options with your lender or a qualified counselor. Visit hud.gov/foreclosure for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure."

For more information, read "Touch Times Series: What to Do When Your ARM Is Due" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

Oregon CU advocates converge for CU Day at Capitol

BEAVERTON, Ore. (4/6/09)--More than 200 credit union supporters converged on Oregon's state capital March 16 to educate members of the House and Senate on credit unions' functions, contributions to the state's economy and service to 1.4 million members.

Credit Union Day is one of the largest lobby days at the state Capitol. This year's theme was "Oregon Credit Unions Safe, Sound and Working for our communities."

Credit union advocates met with nearly every legislative office to discuss the current credit union legislative agenda, said the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO). Credit union booths drew traffic from legislators, staffers and Capitol visitors, helping spread the message that credit unions are a highly visible and active presence in their communities, and vocal advocates and active participants in the state political process.

Speakers included Senate President Peter Courtney, Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, Speaker of the House Dave Hunt, and Sen. Rick Metsger.

"No one illustrates the credit union difference, and the work our credit unions are doing in their communities during this tough economy, better than credit union advocates," said Pamela Leavitt, CUAO senior vice president of governmental affairs and public relations. "Oregon legislators always appreciate the opportunity to meet with representatives from their districts."

The day ended with a reception at during which legislators visited with credit union leaders in a more casual setting.

courtesy of cuna.org

CUs help Cherry Blossom runners: Year seven and counting

WASHINGTON (4/6/09)—For seven consecutive years, credit union volunteers, hoping to drive home the credit union message "people helping people," hit the National Mall by 6 a.m. Sunday to stow the gear of runners in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run.

A long patch of rainy, gray weather cleared for the 13,000 runners at the event, which included hundreds of participants representing Capitol Hill.

Pat Keefe, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) vice president of communications and media outreach, who coordinates the volunteer effort for CUNA, said Sunday, "The most important thing I think we get out of this annual exercise is showing the people running the race the credit union difference in action."

"CUNA folks, for instance, volunteer to help stow runners' valuables, keeping them safe and organized during the race," said Keefe. "We've done this in the rain, in flurries--even on an occasional nice morning like this one. Our intent is to help runners--many of whom are from Capitol Hill--make a connection between credit unions and 'people helping people.'"

Among Keefe's crew of volunteers were CUNA staff and their family members, and helpers from the National Credit Union Foundation, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues, and the Association of Corporate Credit Unions.

Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. (CUMD), sponsor of the 37th annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run, raised $1 million to benefit Children's Miracle Network and its 170 affiliated children's hospitals nationwide. With this year's donation, CUMC will have contributed a total of $4.6 million to children's hospitals since its inception in 2001.

courtesy of cuna.org

Friday, April 3, 2009

CU capital continues downward decline

MADISON, Wis. (4/3/09)--For the third consecutive month, credit union capital declined in February, according to Steve Rick, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) senior economist.

The movement's overall capital-to-asset ratio dipped slightly to 10.2% in February from 10.5% in January, according to the February CUNA monthly sample of credit unions.

"The total amount of credit union capital now stands at $88.5 billion, down from the high water mark of $90.8 billion set last November," Rick told News Now. "Credit union capital as a percent of total assets fell to 10.2 % in February, down from 11.1 % a year earlier.

"With the recession expected to boost savings and asset growth to double digits in 2009, the overall credit union capital-to-asset ratio could fall to around 9% by year end," he added. "Credit union buffers have not been that low since 1993."

Credit union savings balances rose 2.8%, to $728 billion in February from $708 billion in January. Share drafts led savings growth (7.7%), followed by individual retirement accounts (4.3%) and regular shares (3%). Money market accounts and one-year certificates increased 2.5% and 0.9%, respectively.

"Credit union savings growth is off to a strong start in 2009," Rick said. "Savings balances increased 4.4% through February, up from 3.8% for the similar period in 2008. Individual retirement accounts and money market accounts grew the fastest over the last year, rising 17.5% and 16%, respectively.

"Share certificate growth has slowed to 3% over the last year as credit union members were unwilling to lock up their funds into a low-rate term deposit and had expectations of interest rates rising over the next few months," he added.

Credit union loans outstanding decreased 0.14% during February 2009, compared with 0.06% during the same period last year. Fixed-rate mortgages led loan growth, increasing 1%, followed by home equity loans (0.4%). Used-auto loans fell 0.01%, as did new-auto loans (0.55%) and adjustable-rate mortgages (0.66%). Credit card loans and unsecured personal loans dropped the most, 2.69% and 1.89%, respectively.

The loans-to-savings ratio declined to 79.9% in February from 82.2% in January. The liquidity ratio increased to 19.9% in February from 18% in January.

Credit unions' 60-plus day delinquencies remained constant at 1.5% in February.

courtesy of cuna.org

Financial Literacy Month focuses on youth

MADISON, Wis. (4/3/09)--Financial Literacy Month kicked off this week in a number of states, with gubernatorial proclamations, fitness fairs and educational workshops for youth, television shows to educate the public, and plans for motivating young members to save.

Leagues reported that Maine Gov. John Baldacci, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell made special proclamations, observing the month as Financial Literacy for Youth Month, Financial Literacy Month or Financial Education Month, respectively.

In Maine, the Norm Nolette Chapter of Credit Unions, with support from the Jeannette G. Morin Chapter of Credit Unions, held the Sixth Annual Financial Fitness Money Management Experience at Central Main Community College Wednesday. It was the 22nd fair in Maine since credit unions founded the event in 2004. Nearly 140 students from nine area high schools attended the half-day event, during which students checked in and received a scenario packet of their life at age 22.

Jon Paradise, governmental and public affairs manager of the Maine Credit Union League and this year's master of ceremonies, noted, "With the troubled economy on the minds of many, there couldn't be a better time to educate students on the importance of being financially fit."

Maine's credit unions will conduct two more Financial Fitness Fairs during the month.

Pennsylvania Newsmakers, a television show hosted by Dr. Terry Madonna, featured Steven Kaplan, the state's secretary of banking, and Mike Wishnow, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association senior vice president of communications and marketing, discussing Financial Literacy Month (Life is a Highway April 2).

Kaplan said there is a need to make financial education a lifelong learning process, beginning in kindergarten and continuing through adulthood. The program can be seen April 5-11 on television stations throughout the state.

In Washington state, the Department of Financial Institutions is promoting financial education. Boeing Employees CU (BECU) is involved, offering a contest for elementary school students. During the month, students send in their best savings tip and are entered into a drawing. Fifteen winners will attend a BECU Savings Clinic at a Seattle Mariners' game.

AmeriCU CU, based in Rome, N.Y., is expanding the Credit Union National Association's National Credit Union Youth Week (April 19-25) to a month-long celebration. It will use the Youth Week theme, "Magic of Saving," to encourage youth to save and manage their own money. The credit union will have magicians at select branches, and will offer prizes, literacy workshops, games and more to engage youth ages 5 to 18.

Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn, Ohio, will conduct a community book drive to benefit literacy programs and schools near its 22 member centers. "Many organizations in the Miami Valley are facing a shortage of necessary supplies in these difficult economic times," said Jeff Carpenter, vice president of membership and development. "What better way to celebrate National Credit Union Youth Month than to invite our young members to help others in their own communities?" Wright-Patt will join others across the country in the National Credit Union Youth Saving Challenge.

Others promoting the National Saving Challenge to encourage youth about financial matters and including special activities such as workshops and magicians include New Mexico Educators FCU, Albuquerque; DuPont Fibers FCU, Chesterfield, Va.; and Frontier Community CU, Leavenworth, Kan.

courtesy of cuna.org

Member who was shot tried to follow robber

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (4/2/09)--A man who was shot several times after Credit Union of Johnson County, Lenexa, Kan., was robbed may have been shot while following the man who held up the credit union.

Federal charges were filed Tuesday in Kansas City against Nicholas E. Kamphaus, 26, for one count of armed bank robbery. Kamphaus was arrested Sunday.

Kamphaus allegedly entered the credit union Saturday and demanded money from one of the tellers, according to a criminal complaint. He took money from two of the teller stations and fled in a sport utility vehicle, the Department of Justice said in a release Tuesday.

After the robbery, a member tried to enter the credit union's building. An employee told him that a robbery had taken place and the lobby was closed. The man said he'd seen the robber and was going to follow him, according to the press release.

Lenexas police then responded to a report of shots fired near the credit union. They found a man in a grey minivan with gunshot wounds. The victim told police he'd been shot by the robber.

The next day, police received information from a witness that the robber's vehicle was parked at a house near the credit union. Police went to the residence and uncovered shell casings from the vehicle that matched the casings found near the minivan. Kamphaus faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

courtesy of cuna.org

Top 10 News Now stories for March

MADISON, Wis. (4/2/09)--Here are the Top 10 News Now stories most requested by readers during March. Use the link to review the entire story online.

10. NCUA starts stakeholder reports on corporate CUs

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/30/09)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Friday began what it said would be periodic reporting to stakeholders on the status of the corporate credit union system.

9. House approves cramdown bill

WASHINGTON (3/6/09)--The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted 234-191 in favor of H.R. 1106, Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which contains a mortgage cramdown provision that will affect credit unions.

8. Flexible accounting stance may come from NCUA

WASHINGTON (3/30/09)--If an accountant is willing to be flexible about when a credit union books the cost of its 1% premium being assessed to replenish the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, the National Credit Union Administration said it will be okay with that.

7. NCUA to consider corporate CU issues Thursday

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/24/09)--A special closed meeting has been called for Thursday morning by the National Credit Union Administration to look at possible plans to spread out the cost to natural person credit unions of the agency's corporate credit union stabilization efforts.

6. New NCUA bill would spread out replenishment

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/27/09)--The National Credit Union Administration announced Thursday that it has drafted legislation allowing credit unions to spread the cost of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund replenishment over as many as seven years

5. NCUSIF shows preliminary accounting decisions

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/2/09)--The most recent monthly National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund report showed the fund booked both the expenses and the income associated with the corporate credit union stabilization plan in January.

4. Details to Obama loan mod plan released

WASHINGTON (3/5/09)--The Obama administration released details Wednesday of its mortgage loan modification program first announced Feb. 18.

3. CUs get accounting guidance for corporate plan costs

WASHINGTON (3/11/09)--The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants yesterday issued guidance on how credit unions may account Corporate Stabilization Plan.

2. NEW: Corporate CUs: Corporate costs must be spread out, Mica says

WASHINGTON (3/23/09, UPDATED 11:30 a.m. ET)--The Credit Union National Association called on the federal credit union regulator and lawmakers to mitigate the costs of its decision to place two corporate credit unions into conservatorship.

1. CUs urged: Contact NCUA before corporate action today

WASHINGTON (3/26/09)--Credit unions are asked to urge each National Credit Union Administration board member to provide greater transparency regarding a report by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (PIMCO) on corporate credit unions.

courtesy of cuna.org

CUs in three states sue Heartland Payment Systems

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (4/2/09)--Four credit unions from Florida, Alabama and Louisiana have filed a $5 million class action lawsuit against Heartland Payment Systems Inc., seeking damages from what could be the nation's largest data breach.

The credit unions are PBC CU, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Gulf Winds FCU, Pensacola, Fla.; Alabama Rural Electric FCU, Montgomery, Ala.; and First Castle FCU, New Orleans.

The suit was filed on their behalf Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach.

In the complaint, the credit unions allege that Princeton, N.J.-based Heartland, which publicly announced the breach on Jan. 20, was slow to notify its clients about the breach and that the delay caused additional damages. Heartland first learned of a possible breach in October of 2008.

"Not only has Heartland kept its merchants, consumers and credit card issuers in the dark publicly, but it also has not informed many of them in private," the complaint alleges.

Each credit union said it had to re-issue a substantial number of credit and debit cards to members whose accounts were compromised in the breach, which occurred sometime in 2008. The breach compromised credit and/or debit card numbers, expiration dates, internal bank codes, personal identifying information and/or confidential financial information of numerous consumers.

The complaint did not specify how many cards each credit union re-issued. The credit unionseek reimbursement of the costs associated with replacing the cards and notifying members of the breach, time spent by employees on the issue, harm to reputation and goodwill, and fraud and misuse of the compromised information.

The complain alleges that Heartland's actions constitute violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act; amount to a breach of implied contract or contracts to which the credit unions and other class members are intended third-party beneficiaries; and are negligent.

The lead attorneys in the case are Gregory Scott Weiss and Theodore Jon Leopold of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based law firm Leopold Kuvin.

courtesy of cuna.org

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Economy hurts & helps teens

CHICAGO (4/1/09)--The economy is handing teenagers a mixed bag these days: Adults fill most job openings, but volunteer opportunities likely will open doors to some future jobs.

Adults are getting the open food service, retail and customer service jobs that teenagers traditionally hold as unemployment figures climb for both age groups (ChicagoTribune.com Mar. 21). That's bad news for teens competing for fewer jobs that typically draw hundreds of applicants for minimum-wage positions.

Employers have become more selective, opting to hire an experienced adult worker who needs a job to support a family. That's a contributing factor in the increase in teen unemployment to 21.6% (38% for African-American teens) in February, a 17-year record high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

School guidance counselors advise that, although the chance for employment may seem bleak, teenagers be persistent and thorough when applying for a job:

Make sure your application is complete and legible;
Follow up with a phone call or a second visit to ask about the status of the application and likelihood of an interview; and
When you get an interview, dress appropriately and remember to turn off your cell phone.

The economy may limit job opportunities for teenagers, but that hasn't stopped them from supporting charitable causes. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll by the Federal Way, Wash.-based charity World Vision, more teenagers volunteer (56%) than work part time (30%) (BusinessWeek.com Feb. 23).

More than 80% of parents or guardians say their teenagers volunteer themselves, recruit friends and others to help, donate cash, or don a button or T-shirt to support a cause.

Volunteer service is required on many college application forms. And volunteering can be an excellent way to learn a skill, develop teamwork experience, and decide on a career.

Many credit unions have volunteer youth advisory boards that provide feedback on financial products, services and educational events for teens. Contact your credit union and ask about volunteer opportunities for teenagers.

For more information, read "Investing More Than Money" in Money Mix: Launch Your Life.

courtesy of cuna.org

Internet crime complaints up 33%, CUs report scams

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 Google.com).

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.

courtesy of cuna.org

Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan now WOCCU members

MADISON, Wis. (3/31/09)--The credit union associations of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have joined the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). WOCCU's board of directors approved applications from the two countries' national organizations earlier this month.

"The entrance into membership of two more former Soviet satellite [countries' movements or associations] that began as WOCCU development programs speaks to the strength credit unions can bring to developing nations," said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO.

The Azerbaijan Credit Union Association (AKIA) represents 56 of the 70 credit unions serving the country. AKIA's member institutions serve 90% of the country's estimated 9,800 credit union members. The association is the first to receive WOCCU's new affiliate member designation, designed to admit credit union associations without the financial resources to support direct memberships.

"On behalf of all Azerbaijan credit unions, we will do all the work necessary to promote the development of credit unions in our country," said Elchin Bagirov, AKIA's chairman. "We plan to start our work immediately."

WOCCU's board also accepted the Credit Union Association (CUA) of Uzbekistan as a direct member of the organization. CUA was formed by 11 credit unions in 2005 as the first phase of WOCCU's development program in the Central Asian nation ended. WOCCU began working in Uzbekistan in 1998, laying the foundation for a national credit union movement.

In 2002, Uzbekistan's first credit union law was passed with the assistance of WOCCU and guidance from its Model Law for Credit Unions publication. The first three credit unions formed that same year. Today, Uzbekistan has 78 credit unions that serve more than 99,000 members. The institutions hold $80 million in assets and 4.6% of domestic retail savings accounts.

"We are honored to be part of the WOCCU community," said Nizomiddin Muradov, CUA executive director. "We will put all our efforts forth to add value to the development of credit unions and their members worldwide."

As new WOCCU members, AKIA and CUA join Ghana Co-operative Credit Union Association and Seychelles CU, which were admitted as members effective Jan 1. On that same date, Abacus Australian Mutuals became Australia's member to the global trade association, assuming the role formerly occupied by Cuscal Ltd.

Representatives from the new member associations will be introduced and given the opportunity to speak to delegates at WOCCU's next Annual General Meeting at the World Credit Union Conference, July 26-29, in Barcelona, Spain.

courtesy of cuna.org

N.D. CU moves to escape flood, NCUA activates help

FARGO, N.D. (3/31/09)--Fargo (N.D.) VA FCU will move into another Fargo credit union on Wednesday to escape flood waters from the Red River.

Fargo VA will move into Freedom Community CU for three days--Wednesday, Thursday and Friday--Jana Thune, Fargo VA CEO, told News Now.

On Thursday night and early Friday morning, the credit union moved some of it records from the basement of the VA Hospital where it is located, up to the second floor to avoid any potential flood waters, she said.

The credit union was closed Friday, Monday and today to comply with the city's request that all non-essential businesses be closed for three days.

"We will likely open Wednesday and be there through Friday," Thune said. "We're open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, a full day on Friday--which is a big VA processing day. We'll just sign on and work out of Freedom Community's facility. It uses the same data processing facility that we use."

Although no flood waters have affected the VA Hospital--which sits right next to the Red River--as of Monday afternoon, the potential threat of flooding caused the credit union to relocate its operations, Thune said.

None of the other 15 Fargo credit unions had plans to relocate as of Friday, according to Tony Richards, CEO of Mid-America Credit Union Association. Many places in the state, including the association, were closed Monday due to a heavy snowstorm.

After reaching a historic high level of 40.82 feet over the weekend, the river dropped below 40 feet Sunday and could drop to 38 feet by the end of the week, meteorologists said (USA Today March 30).

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has activated its disaster relief policy to assist credit unions and their members affected by the severe weather and flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota.

President Barack Obama has declared an emergency exists in the two states and has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.

Under its disaster assistance policy, NCUA will, where necessary:

Encourage credit unions to make loans with special terms and reduced documentation to affected members;

Reschedule routine examinations of affected credit unions if necessary;

Guarantee lines of credit for credit unions through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund; and

Make loans to meet the liquidity needs of member credit unions through the Central Liquidity Facility.

NCUA works with individual state league organizations and state regulators to ensure all federally insured credit unions are aware of NCUA's available assistance. NCUA Region IV examiners are in close contact with affected credit unions to offer advice and assistance. During disaster conditions, NCUA personnel operate under three priorities:

Determine the safety of credit union staff and operational condition of credit unions;

Provide needed material and technical assistance to affected credit unions; and

Return credit unions to normal operations as quickly as possible.

courtesy of cuna.org

Bystander shot during robbery getaway

LENEXA, Kan. (3/31/09)--A man who may have witnessed a robbery at Credit Union of Johnson County's branch in Lenexa, Kan., was shot several times about two blocks from the credit union as the robber fled the scene Saturday morning.

The victim was rushed to the hospital. His condition is unknown, said several local news sources.

The credit union was robbed just after 9 a.m. Saturday, when a lone man entered the branch, vaulted the counter and displayed a silver pistol, said a spokeswoman with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Kansas City Star March 28).

He left the credit union driving a light-colored sport utility vehicle with Colorado license plates. About two blocks from the credit union, the robber shot the victim several times.

It was unclear whether the victim was a member of the credit union or if he had followed the robbery suspect. Conflicting reports had the victim's age in the sixties or as 71 (WDAF via fox4kc.com and WIBW TV March 28).

courtesy of cuna.org

Be on guard for tax-related ID theft

SAN FRANCISCO (3/30/09)--Tax documents are teeming with personal information for crooks to capture and use to compromise your identity. Whether you file taxes electronically or prefer traditional pen and paper, take steps to prevent personal data from reaching the wrong hands (MarketWatch March 24).

While millions of taxpayers safely file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) every year, the security of your personal information is never guaranteed. Thieves can capture data in a number of ways, including swiping tax papers from your mailbox, hacking in to your computer, or confiscating your information from a tax preparer who unknowingly--or intentionally--leaks your information. Also, the upsurge in online filing--up 20% from last year--can give crooks easier access to personal information unless you take the proper precautions.

However you file, you can help protect yourself by taking the proper precautions:

Filing electronically:

Don't file-share. File-sharing software that has access to your hard drive can share anything stored on it—including your tax return and other sensitive documents. Also, downloads from file-sharing sites may be infected with keylogging viruses or malware, detailing your every stroke to thieves.

Secure your computer. Install a firewall and update anti-virus and anti-spyware software often.

Create strong passwords. Use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols when creating passwords to download your W2 forms, 1099s, and other personal tax documents from your employer. Don't save these passwords in your web browser (smallbiztechnology March 16). Better yet, think of a sentence you won't forget, and create a password from that sentence; for example, "My #1 dog is a Lab the color of night," becomes "M#1diaLtcon." You won't need to write down the password as long as you remember the sentence.

Using a tax preparer:

Check out the preparer's reputation. Check with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) to ensure you are working with a reputable tax preparation firm.

Ask about security policies. How many people have access to your information? Do they encrypt electronic transmissions? How do they keep data safe?

Pen-and-paper filer:

Cover your tracks. When making photocopies of any financial document, be sure the copier does not save images in memory. Shred any documents used in tax preparation you no longer need.

Secure your mail. Don't let tax documents sit in your unlocked mailbox. Instead, mail your tax return from a secure location such as the post office or an official U.S. Postal Service collection box.

For more information, read "How to Be 'Spywary': It's More Software Than You Bargained For" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of cuna.org

CU weighs in on overdraft fees in WSJ

NEW YORK (3/30/09)--An Oregon credit union administrator weighed in on the issue of overdraft fees in a Thursday article in The Wall Street Journal concerning the Federal Reserve's decision about whether to reign in the fees.

The Fed's 60-day public comment period on the matter ends March 30.

The Fed is contemplating several different approaches to the issue, ranging from not changing any current practices to requiring financial institutions to give notification to consumers on every purchase that would cause an overdraft, the newspaper said.

However, many financial institutions said the latter option is not realistic

"People think when they're making a purchase it's like a direct line into their account but it's not; it's a third-party processor making the transaction," Judy Rigwood, compliance director at TLC FCU, a $90 million asset, Tillamook, Ore.-based credit union, told the paper. "We don't have the technology to do that.

"Frankly, we offer overdraft service as a way to help our members," she added. "Some people rely on it almost like they would a payday loan. It allows them to make vital purchases."

courtesy of cuna.org

Schenk: Tax increases affect few small businesses

MADISON, Wis. (3/30/09)--Tax increases will affect only a small portion of small business owners, Mike Schenk, senior economist for the Credit Union National Association, told Business Week Thursday.

Debate among small business owners has raged since President Barack Obama announced a plan to cut back federal income taxes on those with incomes under $250,000, Business Week said.

Proponents claim less than 3% of small business owners have incomes above $250,000, while opponents counter that 15% or more of small business owners will be negatively affected by the proposal.

While the tax increases will have a substantial negative impact, they will only affect a small number of business owners, Schenk told the publication.

"I would ultimately conclude as an economist, that on balance there are some real positives to come out of [the budget proposal]," Schenk said. "The negatives will be apparent to a small sliver of the universe."

courtesy of cuna.org