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MONROVIA, Calif.-Several companies are targeting specific immigrant groups to gain part of the money remittance business, The American Banker said. While the newcomers may not be able to displace dominant players like First Data Corp.'s Western Union Financial Services Inc. or MoneyGram International, analysts say they may keep banks from gaining market share, The American Banker reported.

Next Estate Communications Inc., one of the largest marketers of prepaid cards, here, will begin offering remittances by September. "We are in every check-out aisle of more than 35,000 stores," said Next's chief executive Steven Streit.

Analysts told The American Banker that IDT Corp. of Newark, N.J., the largest U.S. distributor of prepaid telephone cards, has been gathering money-transfer licenses. Travelex Holdings Ltd., the London-based currency exchanger that owned half of MoneyGram until January of 2003, says it its providing a service to send money and looking to expand it. IKobo Inc. of Marietta, Georgia lets customers do money transfers online. The money is loaded on to a Visa card which is then mailed to a recipient.

Xoom Corp. from San Francisco is focusing on money transfers to India and the Philippines.

LAS VEGAS-IBM has started offering software originally designed to bar cheaters from casinos to help identify criminal employees and applicants, The American Banker reported. The software can help find a telephone number or address shared by a thief and an employee or job applicant, the daily said. The software can also identify customers whose accounts at other banks have been closed because of fraudulent activity.

Jeff Jonas, who developed the software, said it is more reliable than public databases such as the one maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control because much of their information is so sparse.

According to Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst with the research firm Celent Communications LCC, employees are responsible for at least half the money that banks lose to theft.

WASHINGTON-Hundreds of companies have missed the deadline to comply with provision 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley act as banker associations have requested more exemptions or reducing number of documents required, according to The American Banker.

The American Bankers Association has requested to raise the shareholder threshold for compliance from the current 500, the daily said. The Independent Community Bankers has asked for banks with less than $1 billion to be exempt from provision 404 rules. The two groups, as well as America's Community Bankers, have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to let banks meet the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements by complying with the internal control stipulated in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Improvement Act, The American Banker said. Under that act, external auditors do not have to carry out separate audits whereas under section 404 the auditors must do independent verifications.

WASHINGTON-The Federal Trade Commission reached settlements with three credit counseling firms that will pay more than $6 million in consumer redress and return more than $24 million in trust accounts. The companies were identified as California-based National Consumer Council, Florida-based Debt Management Foundation Services, and Massachusetts-based Better Budget Financial Services. All of them are now closed.

The companies were charged with failing to tell consumers that debt negotiations most often do not work, that participation in debt management programs could hurt instead of helping credit scores and that creditors would try to collect the full debt.

The three firms had about 75,000 customers combined and collected $107 million in fees from them. Most customers found that their debt rose instead of shrinking, the FTC said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-Wachovia Corp. is recruiting staff, inking partnerships with realty firms and builders and introducing new products in a bid to increase its share of the country's first mortgage market. Winston Wilkinson, Wachovia's Mortgage's retail executive, said the bank wants to become one of three biggest lenders in its banking markets. So far it is one of the top-two deposit takers in most of these markets but it also wants to be a "dominant mortgage player," The American Banker added.

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