Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth Group, which utilizes the MasterCard network to transmit and receive insurance eligibility and benefit data, reported yesterday it has issued seven million electronic benefit cards to its 18 million employer-sponsored health benefits customers. The consumer identification cards can be swiped through any point-of-sale device at a hospital, physician office or other care location, and utilize the MasterCard network to transmit and receive important insurance eligibility and benefit data. UnitedHealth Group is a diversified enterprise that provides a full spectrum of resources and services to help people achieve improved health and well-being through all stages of life.Details
Israel- and California-based On Track Innovations reported that fourth quarter revenues rose 46% to a record $5.8 million and that gross profit for the fourth quarter was up 78% to $3.3 million. Net profit for the fourth quarter was $102,000, compared to a net loss of $2.0 million in 4Q/02. OTI says last year was a year in which the Company began seeing the success of projects in development for several years. During the quarter, OTI’s “EasyFuel” petroleum payment solution entered Europe with an installation in Spain and a wireless “EasyFuel” solution was installed in a chain of gas stations in Mexico. OTI’s contactless payment solution was selected for use in the MasterCard “PayPass” contactless payment roll-out in the US. Also during the fourth quarter, OTI and Scheidt & Bachmann formed an alliance to provide mass transit ticketing solutions, with the first implementation to be in Houston. OTI says this year the firm will continue to focus on the three main vertical market applications of petroleum payment “EasyFuel,” credentialing, ID and personnel authentication, and cash replacement for small ticket items. For complete details on OTI’s fourth quarter performance visit CardData ([www.carddata.com]).
Oxnard, CA-based International Card Establishment is acquiring Irvine, CA-based gift and loyalty card provider, Neos Merchant Solutions, for $5 million in stock. Neos is a national provider of Gift and Loyalty card processing, electronic payment, and POS equipment integration, providing all forms of non-cash payment transactions, including credit and debit card and Gift and Loyalty, and check-from merchant POS terminals. Neos Merchant Solutions is full service payment processing company offering a turnkey solution to today’s retail merchants. I.C.E. is a rapidly growing provider of diversified products and services to the electronic transaction processing industry.Details
The West Virginia Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Cross Country Bank and its affiliate Applied Card Systems, asking the court to grant a temporary injunction restraining the companies from violating West Virginia consumer protection law until the final hearing in the case. Attorney General Darrell McGraw is also seeking reimbursements of $200 to $3,700 for each alleged consumer victim, and a $5,000 fine for each violation. The suit charges that Cross Country engaged in deceptive marketing of credit cards, offering low credit limits and charging exorbitant hidden fees to consumers who already had bad credit. The suit contends that Applied Card Systems used a wide range of abusive collection practices to coerce consumers into making payments if they contested the fees or defaulted on the account.The case is largely based on depositions of numerous debt collectors formerly employed at the Beckley, WV office of Applied Card Systems, which was closed last year. The Attorney General’s office says it has processed more than 200 consumer complaints against the firms. Cross Country and Applied Systems reportedly deny the allegations.Details
While the number of email fraud and phishing attacks increased 60% in February compared to January, the number of target companies in the financial services sector has dropped by more than 50% since the start of the year. Citibank and PayPal experienced the biggest uptick in attacks last month, while attacks on American Express fell to zero in February. A new report by Tumbleweed Communications and the Anti-Phishing Working Group shows there were 282 new, unique phishing attacks reported in February, a 163% increase over December. Therefore, there were an average of 9.7 new, unique attacks sent out to millions of consumers each day. Citibank was targeted in 58 attacks compared to 35 in January, while PayPal attacks jumped to 42 during February from 10 in the previous month. Attacks on Fleet and Bank One also increased last month. Phishing attacks involve the mass distribution of spoofed email messages with return addresses, links, and branding which appear to come from banks, insurance agencies, retailers or credit card companies. These fraudulent messages are designed to fool the recipients into divulging personal data such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and passwords, social security numbers, etc. Because these emails look “official,” between 1% and 5% of recipients may respond to them. However, a new report released by Symantec this morning showed that seniors are the most spam-savvy online demographic compared to other age groups. Symantec says seniors are less likely to take inappropriate actions when dealing with spam. However, the survey found that about 18% of adult email users have been victims of online fraud. Meanwhile, the American Bankers Association issued an alert Friday saying that a fraudulent email is circulating that claims to be from ABA and requests personal financial information.Details
Rosh Pina-based On Track Innovations reported that fourth quarter revenues rose 46% to a record $5.8 million and that gross profit for the fourth quarter was up 78% to $3.3 million. Net profit for the fourth quarter was $102,000, compared to a net loss of $2.0 million in 4Q/02. OTI says last year was a year in which the Company began seeing the success of projects in development for several years. During the quarter, OTI’s “EasyFuel” petroleum payment solution entered Europe with an installation in Spain and a wireless “EasyFuel” solution was installed in a chain of gas stations in Mexico. OTI’s contactless payment solution was selected for use in the MasterCard “PayPass” contactless payment roll-out in the US. Also during the fourth quarter, OTI and Scheidt & Bachmann formed an alliance to provide mass transit ticketing solutions, with the first implementation to be in Houston. OTI says this year the firm will continue to focus on the three main vertical market applications of petroleum payment “EasyFuel,” credentialing, ID and personnel authentication, and cash replacement for small ticket items.Details
Dallas-based BillMatrix has launched a program to utilize ATM/debit cards for mortgage payments taken over the telephone and the Internet on a PIN-less basis. This service was recently implemented with a major mortgage service provider with a national customer base. BillMatrix’s mortgage client was looking to accelerate cash flow and provide customers with a convenient, secure means to make payments. BillMatrix Corporation provides outsourced payment services for the nation’s largest companies using the latest automated consumer interface technologies.Details
For the first time, the number of debits originated by commercial financial institutions exceeded the number of credits, largely due to the rapid growth of consumer e-checks which increased 154% last year to more than 1.3 billion payments. Totally, there were more than 10 billion ACH payments last year, valued at approximately $27 trillion, representing increases of 12.0% and 12.3%, respectively, over 2002. The five ACH consumer e-check applications accounted for 13.1% of all ACH payments in 2003. According to NACHA, the WEB, ARC, and TEL e-check applications are primarily used in consumer bill payment. Credit card issuers have been among the leading adopters of these payments. American consumers initiated 689 million ACH debits on the Internet (WEB), tripling in volume for the second consecutive year. NACHA estimates that 80% of these payments were to pay bills, 18% were to transfer funds, and 1% were to make purchases. The average amount of a Web e-check was $291. More than 220 million consumer check remittances were converted into ACH debits (ARC), an 825% increase over 2002. The average amount of an ARC payment was $296. Approximately 204 million consumer checks were converted into ACH debits at retail locations (POP), up 22%. The average amount was $70. Americans made 170 million e-check payments over the telephone (TEL) in 2003, up 151%. The average amount was $374. Retailers made 31.3 million re-presented check transactions (RCK) in 2003, up 20.1%. The average dollar amount was $155. The number of Direct Deposits in 2003 increased by 4.2% to more than 4.0 billion payments. The number of Direct Payments last year remained steady at 2.8 billion.Details
HP has joined Diebold’s “Partner Information Xchange” program to develop advanced solutions around automated banking machines. Diebold’s PIX program seeks to improve communication between Diebold and other financial industry providers to ensure easier implementation of new products, and to create better solutions for customers. PIX membership benefits include enhanced market awareness, as well as more aggressive implementation of new features and functions to meet customers’ requirements. Diebold, Incorporated, is a global leader in providing integrated self- service delivery systems, security and services.Details
FL-based Global Axcess reported that its net income increased 196% last year, even though revenues were relatively flat, due primarily to the reduction of unprofitable ATM sites during the second quarter of 2003. Global Axcess Corp. was founded in 2001 with a mission to emerge as one of the nation’s leading network-based electronic commerce and transaction processing companies. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Nationwide Money Services, Inc. , the Company provides turnkey ATM management solutions that include cash, project and account management services.Details
Target announced it has awarded $14.1 million to schools this month, the first pay-out this year of its “Target School Fundraising” program which currently has 8 million enrolled customers, whereby 1.0% of Target purchases on the “Target VISA” and “Target Guest Card”, along with 0.5% of all other purchases on the “Target VISA,” are donated to designated K-12 schools. Target also has partnered with Capstone Press, Compass Point Books and Picture Window Books, leading providers of educational materials, to offer schools an opportunity to double their Take Charge of Education School Fundraising dollars this spring. Target Stores serves guests at 1,249 stores in 47 states nationwide by delivering today’s best retail trends at affordable prices.Details
Following a six-month probe into the store credit card industry, the U.K. Office of Fair Trading last week referred its investigation to the Competition Commission. The OFT store cards study concluded that there are features of the sector, both in the supply of store card credit to consumers and in the supply of store card services to retailers, that appear to prevent, restrict or distort competition. The OFT says there is a lack of transparency for consumers in the way store cards are offered and used. Most store cards have an APR of around 10 percentage points above those available with credit cards, and there are questions whether these rates are disciplined by competitive pressure. In addition to the problems connected with the supply of store cards to consumers, the OFT also has concerns with the ability of new store card providers to enter the market or of existing providers to expand market share. The OFT suspects the reasons to be significant costs for retailers wishing to switch to another provider; duration of existing contracts Â some of which are over 10 years; and, widespread use of exclusivity terms. The OFT store cards study was launched in response to questions raised by the Treasury Select Committee last year, according to CardFlash International ([www.cardflashinternational.com]).