Press Releases

For Immediate Release
April 07, 2004

Contact: Cheryl Weiss
(608) 264-7875


Wisconsin Newspapers Target of Credit Union Ad Scam

(Madison) The Office of Credit Unions, which regulates the majority of credit unions in Wisconsin, has notified the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) that scam artists are attempting to place ads in Wisconsin newspapers that appear to be part of an identity theft scam. Newspapers that place these ads may not get paid for the placement.

At least three newspapers- in Beloit, Eau Claire and La Crosse-were contacted by an individual, who tried to place an ad for Advantage Credit Union. Advantage Credit Union is a legitimate credit union in Wisconsin, but the individual placing the ads was not associated with the real credit union. The Office of Credit Unions does have a copy of one ad that the scam artist submitted to the newspapers.

The ads show phony information from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions as well as the credit union's logo, apparently stolen from its web site. Among other red flags, the phone numbers provided did not match up to the actual credit union number. Pay attention for an (866) phone number. Callers are often asked to provide personal information that can be used to obtain credit information fraudulently and/or are asked to provide up-front payments in order to obtain service.

Here are links to past stories from News Now, CUNA's daily online news service. They describe similar attempts to place fraudulent ads: (Idaho) (Pennsylvania) (Michigan)

These articles reveal that several states besides Wisconsin have been affected by scams of this nature where the names of other legitimate credit unions were used fraudulently. In many cases, scam artists attempting to place such ads cannot be traced. The Office of Credit Unions notes that scams like this have also affected banks, so any ad requests from financial institutions should be monitored carefully. The best defense is for the newspaper to call the financial institution using a phone number published by the phone company to make sure that it is legitimate.

The Office of Credit Unions is notifying all Wisconsin credit union presidents of this scam and will urge them to alert the office of any ads that appear suspicious. In addition, the Office of Credit Unions has asked the Wisconsin Newspaper Association to notify its members about this scam so they are also aware of what's been happening.

WNA urges you to pass this information on to your advertising sales staff.

If you are asked to place an ad for a credit union that you have not done business with before, or are contacted by a person you have not worked with before on behalf of a particular credit union, please call the credit union directly through its number in the phone book to verify the legitimacy of the ad. If you suspect a fraudulent ad, you should immediately notify Sue Cowan, the Director of the Office of Credit Unions, at (608) 261-9543, and Chris Olson, Director of Communications for the Wisconsin Credit Union League (trade association) at (800) 242-0833, ext. 3167.