Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Use caution when selling online

Due to the popularity of online sites such as eBay and Kijiji, more and more people are looking to the Internet when they want to sell things. And while selling online can be a terrific resource for entrepreneurs and even those just looking to get rid of a few used items, members should be aware of a scam that has been quite prevalent in recent months.
The scam typically begins with the fraudster agreeing to purchase the seller’s item over the Internet. The scam artist then sends the victim a cheque for more than the agreed upon purchase price, and asks that the seller to cash the cheque and return the excess. If the victim does deposit the cheque and return the excess funds, a few days later the original cheque will bounce and the victim will be out the difference — and possibly the item itself.
The best advice is to wait until the cheque has cleared before sending anything to the purchaser — merchandise or otherwise —and to keep in mind that if the cheque you receive is for too much, that’s probably a red flag that you’re being targeted by a scammer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Card skimmers' prey shocked

• Operation victimizes hundreds in the city
• Police expect investigation to take months

By: Aldo Santin and Geoff Kirbyson
Winnipeg Free Press
October 22, 2009

Matthew Rietze has lost his trust in Canada's banking system.

The Winnipeg man went to buy lunch on Wednesday but, after he swiped his debit card, instead of receiving an "approved" message, the card reader denied the transaction and instructed him to contact his branch.

When he visited his Royal Bank location, he was informed somebody in Edmonton had withdrawn $800 from his account Tuesday evening. Whoever it was attempted a second withdrawal Wednesday afternoon but failed because Rietze's card had since been deactivated.

"I feel very violated. It has consumed me ever since I got back to my office from the bank. I know the bank will straighten it out but it's destroyed my trust to have my money in the bank. It's very disheartening," he said, noting he has been told it could take one to 10 business days to reimburse his account.

It turns out Rietze is one of hundreds of Winnipeggers to be victimized by a card-skimming operation currently under investigation by the Winnipeg Police Service.

Reagan Saunders said she learned Tuesday that money was removed from her account during two separate ATM transactions in Montreal on Monday.

"I went to Tim Hortons (Tuesday) but my purchase was denied," Saunders said, adding when she contacted the Royal Bank they told her that individuals using a fake debit card removed almost $1,000 from her account on Monday.

"They asked me a lot of security questions and I assured them I had not been on Montreal," Saunders said. "They told me the money was taken out of a bank machine in two separate occasions by someone using a debit card that appeared to belong to me."

Tracy, who didn't want her last name used, had nearly $1,000 withdrawn this week from her chequing account at Crosstown Civic Credit Union. She said even though the charges have already been reversed, she's rethinking how and where she'll use her debit card in the future.

"I felt a bit violated. It's a really distant kind of theft. It's not like somebody robbed me on the street but they got into my private account. It made me think about safety a lot more," she said.

Police said that a preliminary investigation has found that debit-card machine pin pads at several businesses have been compromised, with the information used in fraudulent purchases in eastern Canada.

Police said the investigation is expected to take several months and financial institutions in the city are co-operating.

Peter Enns, CEO of Crosstown Civic, said clients could fall into one of two categories. Either they had money withdrawn from their account due to card-skimming or Crosstown Civic's systems showed they used their card at a retailer where skimming was found to have occurred, regardless of whether their account was compromised. In the latter case, clients were asked to come into a branch to be issued a new card.

Enns said the debit cards in question have a magnetic stripe on the back as Crosstown Civic hasn't yet moved to chip debit cards, which are supposed to be infinitely more secure than outdated "mag stripe" technology. Chip debit cards are in the process of being sent out by a number of financial institutions.

Saunders said Royal Bank refunded the entire stolen amount back into her account by Tuesday afternoon and advised her to get a new debit card.

Saunders said the bank would not say how many other Winnipeggers it knew had been victimized, but added she was told she could expect to be contacted by police.

Police are advising that anyone who believes that their debit-card information has been used in a fraudulent purchase should contact their financial institution.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Keep Member Card safety tips in mind when shopping

As the holidays approach, many members will soon be using their Member Cards to make purchases at a wide variety of places. The convenience and ease of use of debit cards is one of the reasons they’re so popular. In fact, the Interac Association reports that during the busiest shopping days of the year, it’s not unheard of for Manitobans to make well over half a million debit transactions in a single day.

But with all those transactions taking place, the association encourages members to keep debit card safety in mind when using your Member Card.

While the Interac network is among the safest networks in the world, debit card fraud can occur if proper precautions aren’t taken. The credit union would like to suggest the following tips to keep your Member Card safe when shopping:

1) Use your hand or body to shield your PIN during every transaction;

2) Keep your debit card in sight when conducting transactions at the checkout;

3) Check you banking statements regularly and contact the credit union immediately if you detect any unusual activity;

4) Notify the credit union immediately if your Member Card is lost, stolen or retained by an ATM;

5) Avoid telling anyone else your PIN, including friends and family. Only you should know it; and

6) Use a unique PIN that can’t be easily guessed. Avoid numbers like your date of birth, telephone number or social insurance number.

Phishing scammers posing as the tax man

It’s unfortunately quite common these days to receive e-mails purportedly from legitimate financial institutions requesting personal information for fraudulent purposes. These scams, typically referred to as “phishing” scams, use phony e-mails and websites to lure unsuspecting victims into handing over critical personal information, such as social insurance numbers, credit card information, bank account details and passport numbers.
Members should keep in mind that the credit union — and any legitimate financial institution — will never request personal information by e-mail. If you receive a questionable e-mail, the best advice is always to contact the institution directly to inquire about the validity of the request.
However, members may not be aware of a similar phishing scam currently making the rounds which involves fraudulent communications purportedly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). As with other instances of phishing, the phony e-mail requests personal information. In this case, however, the request is made so that the taxpayer can supposedly receive a refund or benefit payment.
The CRA has advised that taxpayers should not respond to these fraudulent communications. The agency says it will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by e-mail and that it will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer. The CRA also says it will not leave personal information on an answering machine.
If you have concerns about an e-mail you’ve received, you’re encouraged to visit the CRA website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca.

Rising bankruptcy levels underscore need for good money management

Recent studies on the level of consumer bankruptcies in Canada have underscored the importance of good savings habits, avoiding unnecessary debt and overall sound money management.
Data released earlier this year by Equifax Canada revealed that Canadians across the country are filing for bankruptcy in increasing numbers. The study found that consumer bankruptcies in November 2008 increased nine per cent over the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, a subsequent report released by BMO Capital Markets said that consumer bankruptcies in May 2009 were 33.3 per cent higher than a year earlier. The BMO report noted that consumer bankruptcies have been increasing since the end of 2005.
Bankruptcy is something no one wants to face. It carries with it a significant financial cost and also puts undue strain on relationships and families. Unfortunately, with a weakened economy and high personal debt levels, many Canadians find themselves in exactly that situation.
The key to avoiding bankruptcy is a proper understanding of what you’re getting into before signing on for more debt, as well as establishing consistent, reliable savings habits.
If you’re concerned about the level or type of debt you’ve assumed, or if you need advice on products that might make saving easier, stop by or call the credit union and speak to a member service representative. We have many products and services that may be quite useful to you, and we’d be happy to help.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Province’s credit unions maintain growth, service levels despite current climate

Despite a downturn in the global economy that adversely affected many financial institutions around the world in 2008, Manitoba’s credit unions continue to grow and succeed, thanks to an ongoing commitment to exceptional member service and competitive rates.
Last year marked the ninth straight year of double-digit growth for the credit union system, with total assets increasing by 11.9 per cent to hit $14.4 billion by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the system’s combined loan portfolio grew by 14.7 per cent in 2008 (to $12.1 billion), while total deposits increased by 11.5 per cent to $13.4 billion.
Overall, credit union market share in Manitoba, at nearly 41 per cent, has never been higher. This is particularly true with small- and medium-sized businesses, with 51 per cent of owners belonging to a credit union and 94 per cent of those business members listing a credit union as their primary financial institution.
The continued growth of credit unions in difficult economic times is a tribute to the loyalty of credit union members. In turn, Manitoba credit unions repaid that loyalty by contributing over $3 million to a variety of community based groups, initiatives and charitable organizations in 2008, as well as by awarding $125,000 in scholarships to Manitoba students.
The strength of the provincial credit union system, which employs 3,300 Manitobans, remains a bright spot in today’s difficult economy.

Credit union success not limited to Manitoba

The success of the credit union system isn’t limited to Manitoba. Across Canada, credit unions continue to thrive and attract new members.
According to Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC), the national credit union system’s assets, savings/deposits and loans all recorded solid gains in 2008. Assets rose 8.7 per cent to reach $113.8 billion; over the past five years, the increase in assets was 45 per cent. Deposits and savings increased to $100.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, and loans grew 7.2 per cent over year end 2007. Four of the 10 provincial credit union systems — including Manitoba — reported double-digit growth in each of the three main financial categories: assets, savings/deposits and loans.
The national system now includes 444 credit unions with more than 1,700 branches across the country. There are more than 5 million credit union members in Canada. The system also employs 24,000 Canadians.

Service, accessibility remain a constant for Manitoba credit unions

While the Manitoba credit union system is always evolving, members may have noticed that the pace of change has accelerated in recent years. Indeed, thanks to a spate of credit union amalgamations in Manitoba over the past decade, the total number of credit unions in the province has decreased from 67 in 1999 to 48 today.
But what’s important for members to understand is that while the sheer number of credit unions may have decreased, access to credit union branches and services has never been easier or more convenient. For instance, there are 182 credit union branches in the province today, up from 161 in 1999. Credit unions now have a physical presence in 118 Manitoba cities, towns and villages, and in 67 of those communities a credit union is the only financial institution in place to serve consumers, businesses and producers.
On top of that, Manitoba’s credit unions are continuously striving to offer more ways for members to use technology to access their credit union, either through the network of more than 200 ATMs around the province or through the convenience of Internet and telephone banking.
That’s because Manitoba’s credit unions are committed to the Co-operative Principles and to meeting the needs of their members, both today and into the future.

Pay for it with your Credit Union MasterCard, pay it forward with your Choice Rewards points

If you have a Credit Union MasterCard, chances are you’ve already heard of the Choice Rewards program, which allows you to collect points every time you use your Choice Rewards MasterCard for purchases.
The points you receive can then be redeemed for merchandise and travel rewards. Those features alone make the Choice Rewards program enticing, but did you know you can also redeem your Choice Rewards points for donations to two national charitable organizations?
By calling the Customer Contact Centre at 1-888-546-5487, you can use your points to make a charitable donation to either the Canadian Cancer Society or the United Way of Canada. A minimum donation of 2,500 points (the equivalent of a $25 donation) is required. Tax receipts will be issued by the charitable organization and will be sent to you directly on a bi-annual basis.
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers, whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.
The United Way of Canada provides guidance and support to Canada’s 119 United Ways, which work locally to change living conditions for the better.
For more information on the Choice Rewards program and its charitable donations component, visit www.choicerewards.ca.

Operator card worth considering for boaters

For many Manitobans, summer means spending time at some of Manitoba’s plentiful beaches and lakes. If you’re planning to get away to cottage country this summer and you think you might be operating a boat, you may want to consider obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).
While not required this summer, Transport Canada has stated that as of September 15, 2009, all operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes will be required to comply with the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations, which entails possession of an operator card.
To obtain an operator card, you need to pass an accredited test. Transport Canada doesn’t offer boating safety courses or testing, but its website does include information on accredited course providers in most areas. You are not required to take a course before writing the test, but it is recommended. The courses generally cover a range of basic boating information, including safety equipment requirements, explanations of the buoy system, reviews of all pertinent regulations and how to respond in an emergency situation.
Once obtained, the operator card is good for life.
For more information, visit Transport Canada’s website at www.tc.gc.ca/marinesafety.

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