Posts

RFCU Reaches Out to the Community with Financial Education Programming

Today, financial education is a must for just about everyone.

And, Redstone Federal Credit Union is stepping up with a series of financial education seminars.

 Based on the variety of offerings, “financial” may seem like a misnomer, but that good things – such as buying a home or launching a business – or bad things – such as natural disasters – all have direct or indirect financial consequences.

“Over time, the seminar offerings have evolved, there’s more of a mix now,” said Briana Cousins, financial education coordinator/communications. “Programming  focuses on four main tenets: Save, spend, borrow, plan. These areas effect overall financial fitness. We have developed our own in-house programming to give back to the community.”

Other resources include Balance.com which RFCU uses for the “Drive Away Happy” and “Financial First Aid” seminars, providing a “canned” curriculum that can be used for some of the online financial programming,

Over the past year, RFCU has developed a partnership with local small business incubator, The Catalyst Center to expand on seminar offerings. The collaboration has a small business development focus featuring programming such as “Finding Your Target Market,” and “Developing an Elevator Pitch.”

Cousins is focusing on the next steps and beyond.

“How can we expand outside of Madison County?” she asked. “How can we reach specific audiences, expand our market? Get the word out to the community, in general?”

Regarding one of the bigger challenges she faces, Cousins said, “There’s a massively growing segment of the population who need the messages we are providing. We are trying to find ways to reach this population that is least likely to attend seminars. Unless you can reach them where they are, they don’t participate. So, we need to find a way to get out into the community instead of them coming to us.”

“For 2019, RFCU will keep some of the same programming. In thefuture, we see more partnering with the Catalyst, focusing on providing business assistance for startups and entrepreneurs.”

RFCUseminars are free and open to members and non-members. There are morning, lunchtime, late afternoon, and early evening programs. There are no sales pitches for any of the products presented. However, presenters do provide attendees with printed materials and contact information to follow up, one-to-one.

For schedule and registration info, go to: www.redfcu.org/seminars

Credit unions ally to help fight ‘phone spoofing’

Phone spoofing hides the caller’s phone number and replaces it with another. (BBC Photo)

Don’t believe everything you hear and only half of what you see.

And, today, that old saying is even more powerful, especially when it comes to scams and smartphones.

You see, phone scammers are using software to mask their real identities by displaying a fake telephone number.

It’s called “phone spoofing” and its used by scammers to mislead people into thinking the call is from a reputable business or person.

And it can cost a victim – financially.

On Monday, several North Alabama credit unions held a joint press conference at the Redstone Federal Credit Union Atrium on phone spoofing, a criminal act that has affected thousands of people around the country.

The credit unions and the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama will hold a fraud summit, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m., in the Atrium. The lineup includes financial institutions, law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, the Alabama Securities Exchange and other agencies. The public is encouraged to attend.

“The tremendous rise in spoofing … is almost epidemic,” said Greg Olmsted, president of the North Alabama Educators Credit Union and president of the Northeast Alabama Chapter of Credit Unions. “A retired police officer fell for the jury scam because the number said Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

“If a retired police officer can be scammed … anybody can be.”

It’s a sophisticated operation that is fairly simple in this digital age of the Internet and the Dark Web. Most likely, the information was collected through hacking and massive data breaches, such as last September’s Equifax breach where the personal information of more than 143 million people may have been compromised.

One scam that has been prevalent recently involves a call purportedly from a financial institution, e.g., a credit union. The caller has the victim’s name, phone number, last four digits of the credit card and the expiration date.

The victim will be told their card was fraudulently used and the “credit union” wants to put a halt on the account – and needs the three-digit CVS code on the back to verify the account.

This is where the recipient of the call needs to act to prevent becoming a victim.

“You just think it’s your credit union and you’re just giving them the information,” said Leslie Stone of the Rocket City Federal Credit Union. “We do not ask for that information (the three-digit CVS).”

The victims of the scam come from all walks of life, a fact that stuns Kayce Bell of the Alabama Credit Union.

“It’s surprising to me how many people fall victim,” she said. “We’re shocked at the people – high-ranking military, well-heeled people …

“The scammers are very good at what they do.”

Joe Newberry of Redstone Federal Credit Union said the credit unions decided to ally themselves for the good of the public.

“This is a very personal matter to me and our members,” he said. “We’ve had so many data breaches through the years.

“We’re doing this as a coalition of credit unions because we care about our members.”

If someone is suspicious of the caller, hang up and call the credit union number on the back of the credit card or debit card.

“All of the information is available on the Dark Web,” said Elizabeth Garcia of the Better Business Bureau. “We must assume all our information is out there. Be very cautious.

“We ask consumers to trust, but verify; question everything; and think before you act.”

 

BAM provides a ‘catalyst’ to area small businesses

Small businesses across North Alabama are getting a $5 million boost from a new program that will provide access to $5,000 to $25,000 microloans.

It’s called Business Assistance Microloan (BAM), announced Joanne Randolph, president & CEO of The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, during a Monday morning news conference. BAM is a new way to keep small businesses going and growing through a partnership with The Catalyst, Neighborhood Concepts Inc., and Redstone Federal Credit Union.

Orlando and Tawanda Pitts and their cleaning business, Office Pride, based in Madison, are already a Redstone small business loan success story.

Microloan program announced Monday is a new way to keep small businesses going and growing through a partnership with The Catalyst, Neighborhood Concepts Inc., and Redstone Federal Credit Union.

“We started our company with a dream, a mop bucket and vacuum cleaner,” Orlando said, recalling how a loan officer coached him and his wife through the process. “We only had about five employees at the time … and over the past three or four years we have grown and now have 78 employees.”

He said it was small loans along the way that made the difference.

“That one key, ‘Yes,’ was instrumental in us getting on the right path and helped us grow and turn our thing from a business into a company,” Orlando said. “I knew we were finally in a good place when (the loan officer) called asking if we needed some money.”

Orlando was able to tell him “No.”

“Small businesses make up 94 percent of the companies in the Huntsville metro area,” said Joe Newberry, president and CEO of Redstone Federal Credit Union. “Many of these are small shops and start-ups that need immediate access to microloans to stay afloat until the next big order or contract comes through.”

Newberry said partnering with the two nonprofits to provide a much-needed funding boost will give small businesses a better chance at success.

“I believe it’s a very important element to keep Tennessee Valley businesses growing,” he said.

Emmie Mayne, owner of Lightning and Lace, LLC, based at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, said The Catalyst program she went through prepared her for starting her business in which she uses 3-D printing, sewing and embroidery, among other techniques to create custom pieces for clients.

“Redstone has been with me the whole way and as my business is growing, I’m constantly looking to offer new processes … and that means looking for new and better equipment and as we grow the microloan program … it’s giving me what I need to grow,” she said.

“The real winners today are the small businesses in our community,” said Mary Ellen Judah, executive director, Neighborhood Concepts Inc., (NCI) a nonprofit committed to strengthening neighborhoods through the development of affordable housing and the advancement of economic opportunities in those communities. One tool used to get there is the North Alabama Revolving Loan Fund, which will be used to facilitate BAM.

Redstone is providing a $5 million loan to NCI, which will use the funds to grant loans between $5,000 and $25,000 to small businesses. NCI has other funding options as well that go up to $250,000, Judah said. But it’s the microloans that are often requested by small business owners.

“If we can deploy $5 million in small business loans it is not only substantial to our economy but also to us as a nonprofit,” Judah said. The $5 million loan fund will support itself and help the nonprofit maintain its status as a community development financial institution. NCI was among the first in the state to earn the designation.

Support services for the loans, from application and after it’s granted, will be handled by The Catalyst. A loan clinic will be held the first Tuesday of every month from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at The Catalyst office at 515 Sparkman Drive in Huntsville, Randolph said.

It’s good news for entrepreneurs starting out.

Ariel Foster, founding director of Elyon’s School of Dance and Performing Arts, said the timing of the microloan program has been perfect for her new studio, which will soon have its grand opening in Meridianville.

She said knowing the smaller loans are an option gives her peace of mind and a sense of stability “because of the power of economic partnerships and community building from the inside out.”

 

Redstone Federal Credit Union named Credit Union of the Year by NAFCU

Redstone Federal Credit Union has been named Credit Union of the Year by the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU).

RFCU President/CEO Joe Newberry received the award during at the annual NAFCU Conference and Solutions Expo in Seattle, Wash.

“To be recognized by NAFCU as the Credit Union of the Year is such an honor,” said Newberry. “Each day we strive to be a model credit union by enthusiastically serving our members and offering the products and services that meet their needs.’’

Redstone, the largest member-owned financial institution in Alabama, was recognized by NAFCU for its successes in community give-back efforts; serving underbanked or low-to-modest income members; providing financial education to youth; and devising and implementing a cultural transformation process to better serve its members.

Longtime member Minnie Wheeler of Decatur said Redstone helped her to handle her business affairs after her husband died.

“I didn’t have any credit in my name,” she said. “I had to build my credit. I have learned so much and they helped me get to the point where I can take care of my business on my own.”

In addition to receiving the Credit Union of the Year, Redstone also recently won two Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Awards.

Redstone received the Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Banking, Capital Markets & Insurance, as well as the highest honor in the award program, the Platinum Award for Best Achievement in Organizational Operational Excellence.

In October, Money magazine named Huntsville-based Redstone the “best bank” in Alabama.