The FBI is investigating a company that has allegedly attempted to usurp Century CU's identity in a number of newspaper advertisements as well as online.
The St. Louis credit union was tipped off to the problem by a Missouri CU Association staffer who saw a suspicious ad offering everything from credit repair service to consumer loans in a Jefferson City, Mo., newspaper encouraging people with credit problems to contact Century CU.
Not only had Century CU not purchased any such ad in the Jefferson newspaper, it also had not placed similar ads that have been found in Hannibal, Mo.; San Francisco; Youngstown, Ohio and Boulder, Colo.
Century CU also had not established a website at www.centurycredit.org-a website that mimicked Century CU's authentic site at www.centurycu.org, right down to the use of the NCUA logo and the field of membership requirements. "The only thing they had changed was the contact information," explained Amy McLard, vp- public/legislative affairs at MCUA. "They're telling people to wire (the firm) $1,000, and they'll get a $5,000 loan. Obviously, that's not the way a credit union works."
Century Credit Service is believed to be based in Florida, but offers various addresses to people calling in for information, depending on where the call originated.
A credit union in Florida, in trying to help out Century CU in St. Louis, attempted to visit Century Credit Service at the Florida address given. Upon arrival, it was discovered the address was false, as the only thing in the area was a newspaper, McLard said.
When The Credit Union Journal called the phone number listed in the ad and asked if the firm was Century Credit Union, the woman answering the phone said it was and identified Martan Lang as the president. A call to Lang was not returned at press time.
The president of Century CU is Bob Eike, who has contacted the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and state regulators in Missouri and Florida. When the CU initially called the firm hosting the www.centurycredit.org website asking that it be shut down, the Canada-based company refused to do so.
Only after repeated calls from Century CU and the NCUA was the site finally shut down, McLard said. The credit union has been assured by its online banking provider that while the CU's website was copied right down to the graphics, its member information and online banking had not been compromised, since that data is kept on a separate server.
There are a number of legitimate credit unions that have incorporated the word "century" in their names, including: Century CU, Minneaplis; Century FCU, Cleveland, Ohio; Centuray Employee Savings Fund CU, Hickory, N.C. and Century Heritage FC, Duquesne, Penn.