Technology With Heart

I may be dating myself with this, but my first professional job was working at a call center recharging prepaid phone cards. The company worked with Walmart, Costco, and Starbucks. It was a great idea. Instead of getting a new Starbucks card, you simply had to call, wait on hold, give us the number on the back of your card, your credit card number, and some personal information.

Man on mobile phone

Flash forward an undefined number of years, and, after placing my order at the Starbucks drive thru, I noticed I didn’t have enough money on my card. Adding money now simply took me clicking on button to bill my linked credit card, and verifying with my face. Advances in technology cut the reload time from five minutes to 30 seconds. More importantly though, I didn’t lose any in-person time with a Starbucks employee. I still received a cheerful hello as I made my order, and a smile as I was handed my drink and breakfast sandwich.

At WCU, we aim to take the same approach with our technology. Yes, using U-banking app and online banking makes things quicker, but the reason we strive to have the best technology, is it gives us more face-to-face time with our members. When you use your app to remotely deposit a check, it gives the Member Consultants in our branches more time to counsel people who want to know more about getting a loan for a new car, or learn about our investment and insurance options.

Our Video Teller Units allowed us to expand our arrows, while still being able to hire local and give people an actual person to talk to. It’s not about the technology, and all about what the technology enables.

Fraud in the City

WCU Member consultant Jaleese could tell right away that the member walking into the Astoria branch was under a lot of stress. “Sometimes you can just tell,” she said. “Once he got to the counter, I knew immediately why.”

The member was looking to get a cashier’s check for almost $10,000 in order to post bail for his grandson in California. Something about the story didn’t sound right to Jaleese. As part of her training, she studied the different types of financial scams, and the member’s story had some of the indicators of a classic fraud. There was a ton of urgency placed on the member, after all his grandson was sitting in a jail cell, and bail can only be paid with cash or a cash substitute, that means once it’s handed over, there’s no way to get the money back.

Jaleese was suspicious. She talked with the member and he agreed to let her try to find out a bit more. He told her the name of the county in California he was told the jail was in, and Jaleese went to work. She contacted the county, as well as multiple local bail bonds services. None of the places she called were able to confirm the nephew was lodged in a local jail.

Unable to confirm any of the details the member was told, Jaleese was pretty sure it was fraud. She went over her suspicions with the member, and he agreed to contact his grandson, and the grandson’s parents before getting the cashier’s check. Later in the day, Jaleese got the call she was expecting. The grandson was fine. The member was relieved, and more importantly, he didn’t lose his hard-earned money.

“It really bothers me that people pray on other people by putting them in a stressful situation,” Jaleese said. “I was really happy to hear everything was okay. The great thing about working for a local company is we can take the time to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help people. Usually that means helping them get something they need, but saving somebody that much money really made my day.”

2022 Scholarships

There are milestones, and then there are MILESTONES. This year we awarded $12,500 in scholarships to deserving students. That means we’ve now granted more than $400,000 in scholarships to area students.

The 10 students from seven area high schools and three college recipients come from all walks of life, plan to start a variety of careers, and are unique in many different ways. They do have one thing in common though, they’ve all earned their scholarship. WCU CEO Robert Blumberg said it best “There are so many qualified and intelligent young people out there. It’s always inspiring to read through their journeys.”

WCU’s scholarship recipients are selected based on a variety of factors, including scholastic achievements, community involvement, extracurricular activities, and financial need. WCU services a large population of low-income families and so the need for financial assistance in the community is high.

The 2022 WCU Scholarship recipients are:

Andrew Miller – Astoria

Kegan Rascoe – Astoira

Alex Tapia – Warrenton

Josiah Jones – Clatskanie

Wyatt Macdonald – Astoria

Jessica Butcher – Vernonia

Grace Tallman – Clatskanie

Kaitlin Dahla – Scappoose

Caleb Bostic – Clatskanie

Delfina Acfalle – Astoria

One Simple Step to Avoid Credit Card Fraud

Financial institutions in our footprint have been experiencing increased credit card fraud over the last week. Just like most instances of fraud, the scammer isn’t doing anything unique, but they’re using their knowledge of credit cards, to trick members into divulging just enough information to take over their account.

The scam goes like this. A member receives a call purporting to be from WCU Fraud. It looks legitimate. The call is coming from our 800 number, but guess what? Spoofing a number is child’s play for an experienced scammer. The scammer then asks the member to verify three (made up) purchases. Now they have you on the hook, they ask for your full card number (never give this), the three digit number on the back of your card (that’s another one to never give out on a call you didn’t initiate), and the last four of your social security number.

Now comes the pièce de résistance, the scammer says they’ll issue you a new card number, and you get a notification on your phone confirming the exchange. It really looks real. Do you know why? It is. The entire time the scammer has been interacting with the member, they’re also on the phone with the credit card company. You’ve just given them everything they need to get a replacement card, but by the time the new card is in the mail, the scammer has loaded the card into a digital wallet and gone on a spending spree.

It’s clever isn’t it. The entire exchange isn’t much different than a normal call you might get if we want to make sure some purchases just made were legitimate. So what’s the one simple trick? If you get a call, and you aren’t sure about it. All you have to do is say you’re going to hang up and call the number on the back of your card. For a legitimate inquiry, that’s no problem, but for a scammer, it’s the end of their plan, because even though they can spoof our phone number, they can’t answer a direct call to it. That still comes to us, and we can verify whether there are real questions about your card or not.

It can be tricky to stay safe, but know we’re always here to help.

Free Financial Education

One of the things that makes Wauna Credit Union special is our Mission to provide opportunities for our members to build their financial well-being. If you live, work, attend school or worship in Clatsop County, Columbia County, Western Washington County, or Pacific County Washington, we want to help you realize your financial goals.

That’s why providing free, easy to use, financial education is so important to us. Our partner BALANCE is offering absolutely free webinars on a different topic each month. The March webinar topic is one we get a lot, and that’s what makes up your credit report. Learn the ingredients that go into making the cake that is your credit score, and just as importantly, what you can do to get your score higher.

MARCH — SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF CREDIT REPORTS Credit reports and credit scores hold a lot of power—they can help you buy that first home or limit your financial opportunities. This session provides an overview of credit reporting agencies, credit scoring, disputing inaccuracies, improving credit scores, and dealing with identity theft and fraud.  

  Session 1: Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Share link: bit.ly/SolvingMysteryofCreditRprt  

  Session 2: Thursday, March 17, 2022
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Share link: bit.ly/SolvingMysteryofCreditRprt    
 
APRIL — ON THE ROAD TO RICHES: THE BASICS OF SAVING AND INVESTING Investing is one of the smartest things consumers can do to secure a brighter financial future. Every investor has different goals, risk tolerance, and cash flow, which will impact savings and investment choices. Participants will learn about savings strategies and tactics, investment tools, and how to develop an investment portfolio that works with their lifestyle and budget.  

  Session 1: Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (PST)
Share link: bit.ly/OnTheRoadToRiches

  Session 2: Thursday, April 21, 2022
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST)
Share link: bit.ly/OnTheRoadToRiches    

Thanks from Robert Blumberg

Every year, our CEO Robert Blumberg composes his thoughts on where we as a credit union our heading, and what he thinks about when working to ensure Wauna Credit Union will be the local choice offering top-notch services to the people who call Columbia River communities home.

Dear Friends,

Every December, I take the time to personally thank you, our member-owner. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Wauna Credit Union is grateful that you have joined the credit union movement, and helped us keep your money local.

We started 2021 with promise. By-and-large, 2021 indeed delivered promise, although not necessarily in the way we expected. As we work our way back to normal, we realize that ‘normal’ looks different. People are re-examining their priorities, identifying what is important to them, which is how your Credit Union has always worked

Our priority is figuring out how to make that loan, donate that money, or help the community. From funding public housing, to donating to local charities that actually do the work, I couldn’t be prouder at how Wauna Credit Union has shown its merits over the last two years.

Next year marks 55 years of serving you. And once again, the new year has promise. Our new, state-of-the-art branch is opening in Astoria, reaffirming not only our commitment to a physical presence within our footprint, but also the promise of creating living-wage professional jobs throughout the communities of the Columbia River Valley – this is only the beginning of that promise.

Again, thank you for being a member-owner of Wauna Credit Union, Remember, we are here to serve our members, our friends, our communities, and our family.

Happy holidays!

Robert Blumberg, President and CEO
Wauna Credit Union

Career of Caring

If you know anybody who’s worked at WCU for more than a year, they’ve likely had a few different roles here. Whether that’s moving from a Member Consultant I to a Member Consultant II, or moving from the frontline to the back-office. That’s a core component of who we are. Our corporate vision is to be the financial institution that members choose first, use the most, and grow with throughout their lives. We want our employees to do that too. Go to our careers page to see our current openings, and find out if we have the career that’s right for you.

One of our great representatives is Paige Tischer is a key member of the mortgage team, but in her (almost) 10 years at the credit union, she’s been many things to many people.

Support Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Month

What motivates you? For WCU employee Brianna it’s helping those who suffer from Type 1 Diabetes. Those sufferers include her 8-year-old daughter. “Like most people I didn’t know anything about diabetes until I was directly impacted,” said Brianna. “When we found out my daughter was impacted, we had so many emotions going through us at once. We felt bad that she had been having all these symptoms and didn’t know what was happening, worried about the future, and guilty thinking it was something we had done.”

That’s a common misconception. Type One Diabetes has nothing to do with diet, or lifestyle, or anything else a parent or kid has done, including eating a lot of candy or juice, and unfortunately there’s no current cure. Insulin doesn’t prevent Type 1 Diabetes. An insulin pump is needed to manage blood-sugar level to keep people with diabetes alive.

Just some of the insulin pumps needed

For Brianna one of the most frustrating things is how hard it can be to manage. “It’s not a one plus one equals two situation. There are so many different factors that go into blood sugar, that my daughter can do the same thing she did the day before, and still suffer from low blood sugar,” she said.

Diabetes is a worldwide problem. There are over 422 million people with diabetes according to the World Health Organization, and it contributes directly to 1.5 million deaths a year, and that number is growing. The CDC estimates that over 21 percent of adults with diabetes don’t even realize it.

With children it can be equally as difficult. Teachers are often the first to recognize the symptoms, since they see so many children every day.

So what are the indicators? There’s many, but the common signs are:

  • Sudden strange behavior (acting “drunk”)
  • Breath that smells fruity, sweet, or like wine
  • Extreme drowsiness or lack of energy
  • Ongoing, intense thirst
  • Grunting while breathing
  • Heavy breathing
  • Huge appetite
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Urinating more often (infants and toddlers may have more wet diapers than usual)
  • Difficulty breathing

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month. Visit the American Diabetes Foundation to learn more, including how you can help.

Happy International Credit Union Day

This Thursday is International Credit Union Day. From the name I bet you can figure out what that means. It’s of course the day all credit unions take the time to celebrate being a credit union, and all that it entails.

We’ve talked about how even though credit unions serve most of the same functions as a bank, however, being a not-for-profit credit union instead of a for profit bank allows us to do some pretty amazing things. Studies show people tend to get better rates and have lower fees at a credit union than at a bank (for both deposits and loans).

You know how we’re part of the community, and how our employees live local, buy local, and play local. We don’t talk about this all the time, but being a major local employer is a big deal for us.

Group of Fibre and Wauna Credit Union employees
The team of Fibre FCU and Wauna FCU teaming together to help people

One thing we don’t talk about is our partnership with other credit unions. Do you have an account at InRoads? What about Fibre/TLC? We’re glad to hear it. It’s our partnership with these organizations, as well as credit unions in Portland, Eugene, Medford, Bend, and even New York City, Tallahassee, and Madison, that allows us to shine. A 30,000-unit ATM network? We have that – which is a larger support network than most banks. Top of the line app and online banking? That too, because we partner with a 1,000 other credit unions to pool resources. The ability to collaborate with other credit unions? Absolutely! In fact, that’s really something special.

It’s completely normal for branch managers or mortgage underwriters to meet with their counterparts at another credit union to compare best practices. Our ITIN lending, we spent a lot of time with Point West Credit Union in Portland, to learn more. Before we made the decision on our new core banking system, we met with credit unions from Michigan, California, and Texas. Everybody is happy to do that, because we all have one goal: ensuring the credit union philosophy of people helping people is maximized to its fullest extent. It’s what allows a credit union of 100+ employees like WCU to have the power of 100,000 minds (and hearts). That’s the credit union philosophy, and it makes us better than any bank. We’re hiring right now, so if you want to join “people helping people,” go to our careers page.

Update on our COVID-19 Procedures

As with most things, the future can be quite unpredictable. Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen changes many of us have never experienced. Some of those changes were for our safety, others not so much. In the days and months to come, we expect precautions against the spread of COVID and its delta variant to surge as more and more cases of infection are recorded.

While your account security and access to affordable products and services continue to be our top priorities, so too is your physical safety. As such, the likelihood of business closures and even disruptions in our lobby service may occur. Though we are doing everything necessary to prepare for such instances and to avoid any disruption in how we serve you, it’s important that we forewarn of these possibilities.

Please visit waunafcu.org or give us a call at 800-773-3236 before you plan to conduct any transaction in person. Remember, we have a wide array of digital solutions for you to utilize instead of coming into a location.

Per Governor Kate Brown’s mandate, all members and staff are required to wear masks in our branch lobbies, which are open by appointment. Please stay healthy. We appreciate your patience as we all navigate these ever-uncertain times.

Robert Blumberg Signature

Robert Blumberg, CEO and President