Credit Complaints Rise in IL

For the third consecutive year, home repair and telephone “slamming” remained the top two consumer complaints in Attorney General Jim Ryan’s office while consumer credit problems climbed from sixth to third place.

Ten percent of the consumer complaints received by Ryan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau — 2,395 complaints — involved construction and home repair problems, according to statistics compiled by the bureau. Slamming, or switching a person’s phone service without his or her consent, was close behind with 1,788 complaints.

Consumer credit problems, such as billing errors or unsolicited credit cards, leaped by more than 700 complaints between 1997 and 1998, going from 927 to 1,630. The annual Consumer Protection Week beginning Feb. 1 has chosen credit as its focus in order to teach consumers about how to protect themselves against credit fraud.

Following is the Top Ten list of consumer complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office during calendar 1998.

Home Repair 2,395 10.2%
Slamming 1,788 7.6%
Credit 1,630 6.9%
Used Vehicle Sales 1,393 5.9%
Cramming 1,246 5.3%
Auto Repair 1,229 5.2%
Contests, Promotions & Scheme 1,159 4.9%
Mail Order 894 3.8%
Electronic Devices 850 3.6%
Business & Professional Services 542 2.3%

“With this week designated as National Consumer Protection Week, now is a good time for all Illinois consumers to be aware that they can be victims of scams,” Ryan said. “Last year, as in most years, our office received nearly 24,000 individual consumer complaints. This is a very large number, but it probably represents only a fraction of the actual number of people who are victimized but simply don’t report it.”

In particular, the Attorney General has been in the forefront of protecting consumers against telecommunications fraud, including slamming and cramming. The Attorney General has filed more lawsuits against companies that slam consumers than any other state.

Cramming, the newest telecommunications fraud, represents unauthorized monthly charges to a consumer’s phone bill, such as voice mail. Illinois was the first state in the nation to sue fraudulent companies for cramming.

“Our list shows the wide variety of consumer problems facing Illinoisans,” Ryan said. “Consumers — especially the elderly who are so often targeted — can follow some simple rules to avoid becoming victims. Never give out credit card or other personal information to people you don’t know. Do business with individuals or businesses you either know personally or who have been referred to you by someone you trust. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is and should be avoided. And never be pressured into making a quick decision which you might regret later.”

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Diebold Record

Diebold reported yesterday it shipped a record number of upgrade modules in 1998, matching unit shipments for the first time in the company’s history. The company shipped 26,286 self-service terminals and 26,211 upgrade modules worldwide in 1998, resulting in hardware revenue of approximately $500,000,000. However Diebold says the company would no longer break out self-service unit shipments when reporting its global self-service revenue in the future. The firm believes unit shipments alone are no longer a valid barometer in measuring market activity. Diebold says the emergence of low-end cash dispensers, as well as the growing importance of upgrade modules, has precipitated a change in the way the market should be measured. One research firm, GartnerGroup Financial Services, says it will measure marketshare for all major ATM providers by revenue.

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100% Secure Payments

Telpac Industries Inc. Thursday announced that simultaneous with the completion of its previously unannounced U.S. domestic computer/telephony network, scheduled for activation later this month, Telpac plans to test a new, proprietary, payment system that promises its customers a 100% secure method of effecting payment for goods and services online.

When asked how the payment system worked, Jerry Drizin, Telpac’s director of sales said, “You know I can’t elaborate on the methodology or technology used by our payment system. What I can say, however, is that all customer information that should be confidential, such as credit card and bank account numbers and the like, is so well protected by encryption and other means, that we believe no customer of ours will ever be the victim of cyber-fraud. We believe that this technology is so effective that it will eventually be the payment system of choice for all Internet payment transactions.”

During the test period Telpac will offer this service without charge. Based on its internal financial projections and models, however, Telpac believes that this payment technology, if successfully tested and proven to be 100% risk free for users, will bring substantial, unanticipated additional revenue into the company. Eventually, Telpac will license this technology to other network service providers.

Telpac Industries designs, builds and maintains high speed computer/telephony networks on a worldwide basis. To date, the company has focused its efforts on the United States, Asia and the Middle East. Through its wholly owned subsidiary Telpac International Ltd., the company is a licensed facilities based international long distance carrier. Through other subsidiaries or joint ventures, the company maintains, owns or operates licensed telecommunications facilities in the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan, with services to commence there and in three additional countries during 1999.

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and are subject to the safe harbors created thereby. Forward-looking statements in this news release are necessarily subject to risks and uncertainties which may affect the accuracy of such statements. The company’s future actual results could differ materially from the forward-looking statements discussed herein.

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GameCash Wins 5 Deals

Game Financial Corporation, a subsidiary of Travelers Express Company, Inc., announced it has signed contracts to provide its GameCash cash access services to Dover Downs race track in Dover, Del.; Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind.; Trump Casino in Gary, Ind.; and the Seminole Indian Casinos in Immokalee and Tampa, Fla. Operations are expected to commence at all properties by the end of March 1999.

“We are continuing our aggressive growth plan to provide GameCash services to more and more clients,” said Louis Dachis, vice president of marketing. “Our credit card cash advance, check cashing and ATM/debit services offer a turnkey package that quickly drives cash onto the gaming floor in an efficient, cost-effective manner.”

Game Financial Corporation provides comprehensive cash access services to gaming establishments, particularly casinos. Through proprietary PC-based systems, the company is an innovative leader in using the credit card cash advance transaction as an opportunity to provide promotional programs and other value-added customer reward and retention services to its host establishments.

In 1997, Game Financial merged with Travelers Express of Minneapolis, a leading processor of money orders, money wire transfers, cashier checks, share drafts and cash dispeners. Travelers Express is a major subsidiary of Viad Corp (NYSE:VVI), a Phoenix-based corporation that includes airline catering, convention services and payment services.

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New Providian Ops Centers

Providian Financial Corporation announced Thursday that it plans to open two new operations centers in Oakland, California and Arlington, Texas. The new centers will support Providian’s growth and expansion of Providian’s consumer lending businesses.

Providian, which is headquartered in San Francisco, has grown to over 6,000 employees from 4,000 at the start of 1998.

“I’m very pleased with Providian’s growth,” said Providian Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Shailesh J. Mehta, “and I’m glad we’re able to share our success with our communities by creating new jobs.”

Providian also has facilities in Fairfield, Pleasanton, and Sacramento, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Louisville, Kentucky and Concord and Tilton, New Hampshire.

Providian Financial Corporation (www.providian.com) is a leading provider of lending and deposit products to consumers nationwide. With over $14 billion in assets under management and eight million customers, Providian Financial serves a broad, diversified market with loan products that include credit cards, revolving lines of credit, home loans, secured credit cards, and fee-based services. San Francisco-based Providian Financial, which ranks among the ten largest bankcard issuers in the nation, is a member of the S&P 500.

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PocketPay

eConnect, formerly Betting Inc., and Telemax, an advanced development-stage telecommunications company, have formed a strategic alliance to develop a “wireless e-commerce PocketPay” capability.

PocketPay will facilitate legal wireless cash gaming wagers and business transactions, including the sending of mobile cash transactions to internet and non-internet sites.

The companies plan the first demonstration of wireless e-commerce PocketPay to a wireless phone manufacturer in the next quarter of 1999. PocketPay allows consumers to load their credit, ATM, smartcard or charge cards into the memory of a handheld unit for use by the customer to conduct mobile electronic commerce transactions.

The transactions will be safe and secure through encryption designed by ET&T ([www.hpos.com][1]), a partner of eConnect. “Personal Encrypted Remote Financial Electronic Card Transactions” (PERFECT) will be used exclusively by Telemax to process transactions. ET&T will also process all gaming transactions to eConnect, who will contact the gaming company identified by the customer that a PERFECT wager has occurred.

Telemax will receive a line carrier fee per transaction and will also share in all transaction fees that are generated from the PocketPay usage.

eConnect estimates that the current global market for wireless gaming commerce is in excess of $100 billion. eConnect will focus its marketing efforts on the highly lucrative Asian wagering market. With the PocketPay unit, a gambler can, on impulse, place cash wagers to both internet and non-internet gaming companies by using an ATM card with PIN or smart card. eConnect will process these transactions through its eGate division to the specific gaming operators selected.

Telemax as a wireless telephone provider will focus its efforts on the small business market. With the built-in PocketPay feature that holds the customer credit, ATM, Smart, and charge cards in memory, its customer will simply input the PERFECT merchant ID, the amount, and the card to be used.

The PERFECT transaction is then sent by Telemax signal to the ET&T bank host which will process the transaction, alert the merchant of payment, and then send the bank authorization and merchant acknowledgement back to the PocketPay customer. The customer is then offered the choice of receiving an electronic receipt by fax or email or to simply hold the payment record in the PocketPay memory for later downloading by the consumer.

eConnect is a high-technology Internet entertainment company that operates in the electronic digital gaming and entertainment industry.

[1]: http://www.hpos.com

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Payment Discrimination

U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) reintroduced the ‘Cash Consumer Protection Act’ yesterday. HR 599 simply states that no one may refuse to engage in a commercial transaction because a consumer does not have a credit card. The ‘Cash Consumer Protection Act’ would amend the ‘Consumer Credit Protection Act’ and says “no person may, in the course of a business transaction involving a sale or lease, refuse to make the sale or lease because the purchaser or lessee does not possess a credit card.” The seller or lessor is protected by being allowed to use other means, including the collection of cash deposits to protect their assets. Fattah, who initially introduced the legislation fifteen months ago, reintroduced the bill in honor of National Consumer Protection week.

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ATM Refunder

Internet banker TeleBank rolled-out a promotion Thursday to instantly credit customers for any ATM fees charged by another bank when using that bank’s ATM. The TeleBank ‘ATM Refunder’ is a new product exclusively for users of Yahoo! Finance who sign up for TeleBank accounts through an advertising campaign to run on the Yahoo! network. The ‘ATM Refunder’ will instantly credit a Yahoo!/TeleBank customer’s account for any foreign ATM fees up to $1.50 per transaction and up to four transactions per month. TeleBank’s Internet checking account holders receive interest on account balances over $2,500, free unlimited online bill payments, free Internet account access, free printed checks, a free ATM/debit card and pay no monthly fees.TeleBank currently has over 50,000 accounts representing more than $1.1 billion in deposits.

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BAMS & Furr’s

BA Merchant Services Inc. and its technology partner I-Way Corp., Newport Beach, Calif. have implemented an Internet commerce site for Furr’s Supermarkets Inc., a 70-store chain based in Albuquerque, N.M. Furr’s Online will sell all products normally sold in a Furr’s Supermarket, including perishables, with the added convenience of delivery to home or office or pick-up at designated stores.

“We believe this is extremely significant E-commerce technology,” said Jim Aviles, senior vice president at BA Merchant Services. “Bringing I-Way’s On-line store to our customers offers them a secure E-commerce solution in the competitive virtual marketplace.”

All credit cards are transacted through BA Merchant Services Inc. vPOS gateway offering enhanced security features. BA Merchant Services Inc. and I-Way Corp. have been working together for several years on secure E-commerce payment solutions.

“The key to our On-line store technology is integrating tightly to existing supermarket systems,” said David Isaacs, president of I-Way. “I-Way’s technology extends our customers’ marketplace in effect creating a store with no walls. Hosting the system on our own hardware greatly reduces client-side system complexity so the retailer can concentrate on their strength — selling groceries. Our systems enhance our customers’ marketplace, not compete with it as others seek to do.”

I-Way hosts the system in its secure Irvine, Calif. data center. “Furr’s Online is truly groundbreaking technology,” said Melissa Porter, director of Non-Traditional Commerce for Furr’s. “It tightly integrates into our physical store structure. Our Frequent Shopper Program, product picking and fulfillment and sales reporting all flow from and through our legacy systems. Furr’s Online is a seamless extension of our physical stores.”

According to published industry reports the Retail Grocery Industry alone generates approximately $400 billion in sales per year (Food Marketing Institute). According to Price Waterhouse, 10% or $40 billion in retail grocery sales will be electronic by 2005.

BA Merchant Services and I-Way Corp. will be displaying their E-commerce systems in New Orleans at Marketechnics ’99, Booth No. 910, Feb. 26-28.

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Diebold Philippines

Diebold, Incorporated announced it has appointed Prime Systems Plus Inc. as its distributor in the Philippines. Previously, Prime Systems acted as a distributor for International Business Machines (IBM), marketing Diebold self- service solutions under the IBM name.

Under the distributor agreement, Prime Systems will provide sales, marketing and customer support services for Diebold automated teller machine (ATM) installations and other self-service solutions throughout the Philippines. Together, Diebold and Prime Systems offer financial institutions more than 150 years of bank technology experience.

“The Philippines has been an excellent market for Diebold with more than 30 local banks using Diebold-designed and manufactured ATMs for more than a decade,” said James Chen, Diebold vice president and managing director, Asia/Pacific. “We are pleased to establish a stronger presence in the Philippines.

“Our relationship with Prime Systems is an important part of our drive to expand our operations in Asia,” Chen said. “It allows us to get closer to our customers and introduce new products and technologies to them. The closer we are, the better service we can provide.”

Chen added that Prime Systems’ experience in the ATM business and its intimate knowledge of the market would be a great asset to Diebold’s customers in the Philippines.

Honorio Ingal, president of Prime Systems Plus, said the two companies are well-suited and that he is optimistic the partnership will be successful.

“This agreement is of special significance because the relationship between Diebold and Prime goes back a long way,” he said. “We have supplied Diebold solutions to the Philippines’ ATM and self-service market for more than 10 years.”

Prime Systems Plus Inc. is a leading systems integration company focused on banking and imaging solutions.

Diebold, Incorporated is the global leader in providing integrated delivery systems and services. Founded in 1859, the company employs more than 6,000 employees in some 120 locations worldwide with headquarters in Canton, Ohio, USA. Diebold reported revenues of US$1.2 billion in 1998 and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “DBD.” For more information, visit the company’s Web site at [http://www.diebold.com][1].

[1]: http://http://www.diebold.com

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Igniting Sales

TX-based ATM manufacturer, Tidel Technologies, Inc., reported Thursday that its introduction of the new ‘Ignition’ series of ATMs in October has increased the number of units shipped in the last quarter by 45% compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company expects to sell the remaining inventory of the ‘AnyCard ATM’, the predecessor to the ‘Ignition’ series ATM, by Mar. 31. Tidel says the current quarter’s results should be further enhanced by the first shipments of its new cash controller model, the ‘TACC IV’.

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Super Smart Card

Philips Semiconductors and IBM Research revealed plans Thursday to jointly develop a new generation of multi-function smart cards. The new IBM-Philips approach will mark the first time that multiple smart card applications can be written in different programming languages and then loaded onto the same card after it is issued. The new approach supports applications written in native assembler language, high-level languages such as C compiled to native binary code, and interpreted languages such as Java. The cards, based on Philips Semiconductors’ ‘SmartXA’ smart card processor, will incorporate a highly secure operating system and enhanced JavaCard virtual machine software being developed by IBM Research. The ‘SmartXA’ also features a smart card hardware firewall, a future-oriented 16-bit CISC processor and a state-of-the-art memory configuration. It provides approximately 30 times the performance of today’s 8-bit architectures, enabling it to run software interpreters such as Java quickly and efficiently. Both firms hope to launch a pilot in 2001.

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