Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Co-operative centennial reason to celebrate

Along with access to highly competitive products and services, one of the benefits of being a credit union member is the say you have in the direction of the credit union. That’s because every credit union member is entitled to vote at the organization’s annual general meeting as part of the principle of Democratic Member Control, one of the Seven International Co-operative Principles.
Democratic member control is one of the reasons members can be assured that their credit union will work in the best interests of them and their community. It’s also one of the reasons why countless Canadians will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canada’s co-operative movement in 2009.
The first national co-operative association, the Co-operative Union of Canada (CUC), was formed in Hamilton, Ontario on March 6, 1909. The organization was one of the forerunners of the modern Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA).
Today, there are roughly 8,800 co-operatives and credit unions across the country. Together they have more than 17 million memberships, over $275 billion in assets and employ more than 150,000 people.
Co-operatives of all shapes and sizes have helped members through good times and bad over the course of the past 100 years, and are stronger than ever as they move into the next 100.
Certainly, good reason to celebrate.

Tax credit may drive additional home renovations

January’s federal budget introduced a temporary Home Renovation Tax Credit of 15 per cent (up to a maximum of $1,350) for eligible home renovations and alterations, including things like renovating a kitchen, building a deck, installing a new furnace or purchasing new windows.
The federal government explained that the purpose of the tax credit is to provide a temporary incentive for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects, with the overall goal of stimulating the Canadian economy and boosting the energy efficiency of Canada’s homes.
For homeowners who were already considering renovations, it would seem to make sense to take advantage of the 2009 tax credit. However, an increase in renovations will also mean an increased demand for contractors, which may lead to opportunists taking advantage of eager homeowners.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario advises that home repair rip-offs are among the most common types of scams. The BBB warns that the contracting industry is “plagued with fly-by-night scam artists that show up on your doorstep offering to do house and yard work for exorbitant fees.”
According to the Bureau, home repair rip-off artists typically request that you pay fees up front before the work is completed, refuse to provide a written receipt and complete work poorly. Homeowners are advised to watch out for companies that knock on your door offering to do work, regularly over bill or that charge for services you have not requested.
The BBB suggests getting estimates from a minimum of three contractors who have permanent addresses in your area.

Security Tips: Other steps to protect your identity

* Be suspicious of transactions you didn’t initiate
* Question the need to provide your Social Security number
* Reconcile all credit purchases with your monthly statement
* Review your credit statements, and close accounts you don’t use
* Get annual reports of your credit status from Equifax or TransUnion
* Photocopy the contents of your wallet and keep this information in a safe place
* Immediately sign all new credit cards
* Your mailbox is an invitation to thieves. Get a locking box, or retrieve your mail right after delivery
* Shred anything that contains your personal information
* When purchasing goods online, ensure the URL starts with “https://” (the “s” is for secure), and beware of using pop-up forms

Members advised to be wary of telephone scam

A familiar telephone scam involving VISA and MasterCard credit cards has been occurring in increasing frequency in recent months and, as such, members are being advised to be vigilant with respect to confidential personal information.
In this scam, victims typically receive a phone call from a caller who identifies himself as an investigator with the fraud department of VISA or MasterCard. The caller states that the victim’s account has been flagged for unusual activity and then asks if the victim has recently made a purchase in a distant region for a specified amount.
When the victim replies that they have not, the caller states that VISA/MasterCard will credit the amount of the fraudulent purchase to the victim’s account and then asks for verification of the credit card number and the three-digit code on the back of the card. The caller may also ask for other confidential information, stating that the information is needed to credit the amount to the account.
Once the victim gives the caller the information, the caller assures them the money will be credited to their account and ends the call. The scam artist then uses the information to go on a spending spree with the victim’s credit card.
If you receive an unsolicited call from an individual claiming to be a representative of VISA or MasterCard, do not give them any personal information. Instead, call the credit card company directly and ask to speak to a representative.

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