Loan Scam

The Federal Trade Commission has charged Franklin Credit Services, Inc., Amansco Credit Services, Inc., and the companies’ principal owner, with falsely representing to consumers that they would receive a low-interest, debt consolidation loan for a one time fee of $295. Consumers never received a loan according to the FTC, and instead were offered a bill paying service that required them to pay an additional fee. The FTC has sought a restraining order temporarily halting the alleged deceptive practices and imposing an asset freeze on the defendants.

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TIKITBOX Expands

The Pathways Group, Inc. announced that it has signed a system evaluation agreement with privately-held Enchanted Parks, Inc.  The agreement calls for the installation of the Company’s TIKITBOX II unattended ticketing and smart card kiosk system at Enchanted Parks’ Wild Waves and Enchanted Village water and amusement park located in Federal Way, Washington.

The agreement provides for the Company installing its unattended ticketing system on an evaluation basis for operation during the Christmas holiday promotion and, upon the conclusion of the evaluation, gives Enchanted Parks, Inc., the option for a rollout of several kiosks throughout the park in time for their main season opening in May 1999.

Carey F. Daly II, Chairman and President of The Pathways Group, Inc. said, “Our TIKITBOX(TM) II product continues to experience a high rate of interest and acceptance.  As evidenced by the installations we have signed or completed to date, the systems features are attractive to a number of different sizes and types of venues in the ski and amusement industry.”

The Pathways Group, Inc. provides clients with innovative and unique solutions for securely creating, capturing and processing data and electronic transactions using custom application software and hardware systems.  The company was established in 1987 by Carey Daly and has evolved into a leader in the development of custom software and hardware for electronic banking, data and transaction processing, and smart card applications.  Pathways creation of proprietary “back room” systems allows for the capture and processing of data and transfer of funds via “ACH” protocol, the standard used in the banking industry for transfer of funds in retail, medical and institutional environments.

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WorldSpy

WorldSpy Corporation yesterday launched WorldSpy (), a premier online research and shopping service. WorldSpy empowers consumers to review and compare products and purchase a variety of name brand merchandise directly from manufacturers at significant savings. By disintermediating the supply chain and squeezing costs from the traditional retail system – and providing important value-adds such as free shipping, unbiased product information and secure credit card transactions – WorldSpy has created the first consumer e-commerce exchange – an information and shopping “microportal.”

“WorldSpy’s consumer e-commerce exchange model successfully melds two of the Internet’s most powerful capabilities – research and commerce – and provides significant value to both manufacturers and consumers,” said Alan Clingman, co-founder and CEO of WorldSpy. “For manufacturers, WorldSpy is the means by which they can outsource all or part of their e-commerce requirements, overcoming the challenges of direct-to-consumer product fulfillment and order processing. For consumers, WorldSpy offers dynamic and well organized product reviews, comparative data and general shopping tips with the added benefit of being able to purchase merchandise directly through our site at competitive prices.”

With a full consumer roll-out expected in the first quarter of 1999, WorldSpy officially unveiled its powerful research and comparison capabilities in time for the 1998 holiday buying season. WorldSpy will soon offer consumers the ability to purchase products from such well-known manufacturers as IBM, Brother, Trillion Diamonds and The Benefactory (toys) – with more to come.

To help consumers make intelligent purchasing decisions, WorldSpy has entered into an agreement with Consumers Digest, giving consumers access to a vast, constantly updated database of “Best Buy” product listings. To drive traffic to the site, WorldSpy has entered into a long-term partnership with Lycos, where WorldSpy is showcased as a premier research and shopping resource in several of Lycos’ popular Web guides ([www.lycos.com][1]).

WorldSpy is the first e-commerce concern to fully integrate software, data processing and product fulfillment for Fortune 1000 companies. The company has entered into a warehouse management and distribution agreement with UPS/Worldwide Logistics. As its merchant processor, WorldSpy uses Old Kent Merchant Services, a joint venture between Old Kent Bank and First Data Merchant Services Corporation, one of the nation’s largest credit card transaction processors. These relationships allow WorldSpy to offer manufacturers a seamless e-commerce solution.

Unique Approach to E-Commerce

As former commodity traders, WorldSpy’s founders have mastered every stage of supply chain logistics including processing, financing, warehousing and distribution, and have applied their extensive knowledge to online shopping. Following the commodoties exchange model, where end-users buy goods directly from suppliers, WorldSpy’s consumer e-commerce exchange allows consumers to purchase products directly from manufacturers.

“We were witness to the continuous disintermediation of the supply chain that was brought about through the efficient flow of information. The Internet will do for consumer goods what Reuters and Bloomberg did for commodities and the financial markets – make the market more efficient,” said Henry Schachar, co-founder, president and COO of WorldSpy, and former president of Philipp Bros., then the world’s largest commodities firm.

Benefits for Manufacturers and Consumers

WorldSpy’s unique approach to online comparison shopping results in a long list of benefits for both manufacturers and consumers:

Manufacturers Consumers

— End-to-end e-commerce solution — Unbiased product reviews and information — Improved profit margins — Powerful research and comparison capabilities — Shorter logistics cycles — Free shipping — Direct to consumer fulfillment — Secure online transactions — Direct credit card payments — Convenience of online shopping — Targeted branding opportunities — Highly social environment — Elimination of credit risk — Three-day shipping anywhere in the USA

What’s On WorldSpy?

Consumers can browse through WorldSpy’s Pavilions or use its search capabilities to find and compare hundreds of thousands of products. WorldSpy will continue to add new products and Pavilions on a regular basis.

Now Available on WorldSpy Coming Soon

— Home Electronics — Computers/SOHO — Jewelry & Watches — Health & Beauty — Appliances — Home Store — Luggage & Accessories — Handyman/Do It Yourself — Toys & Games — Garden Center (Research only; shopping coming soon) — Sports Equipment & Fitness Accessories  — Factory Bargains

Online Shopping “Intelligence”

WorldSpy’s powerful shopping “intelligence” capabilities let consumers efficiently research and compare hundreds of thousands of products, whether available for purchase on WorldSpy or not, giving shoppers the incentive to visit WorldSpy first. In addition to Consumers Digest’s library of “Best Buy” product reviews, the site provides quick and easy access to public information and real user feedback from its message boards and chat rooms. WorldSpy will add additional sources of consumer product information on an ongoing basis.

Once consumers have researched a specific product category, they can conduct side-by-side feature comparisons on similar products to determine which product best suits their needs and provides the best value for their money. The “compare” function opens an HTML window that can be manipulated in a table chart to highlight specific products or eliminate unwanted data (an optional Java version for supporting browsers will be available soon). Once created, these comparison charts can be saved for later review.

Secure Online Transactions

To give consumers peace of mind, WorldSpy has created a secure, private network for online credit card transactions. In addition to establishing a dedicated connection to First Data Merchant Services, WorldSpy uses a proprietary encryption technology and Secure Socket Layering (SSL), which is used by many banks and credit providers. Credit card proceeds go directly to the manufacturer’s accounts, not to WorldSpy.

Shopping Made Easy

To purchase available products through WorldSpy, consumers place items in their “shopping cart,” click “checkout” and complete the shipping and payment form. Items from more than one manufacturer or Pavilion can be purchased in a single transaction. After receiving an order, WorldSpy’s automated system immediately processes the user’s credit card for authorization. The designated warehouse draws the items from inventory and puts them into the delivery system for prompt delivery, normally within three business days. If an item is out of stock, WorldSpy will notify the customer via e-mail when it is available, and will not process the credit card transaction until the product has shipped.

Online Shopping . . . A Social Experience

Since shopping is a highly social activity, WorldSpy encourages visitors to “compare notes” by sharing their shopping experiences and product comments, questions and concerns with other users in WorldSpy’s community message boards and live chat rooms. As an added value, WorldSpy will offer personalized shopping recommendations, special promotions, a gift registry and advisory service, e-mail notification on requested products of interest, and reminders of important dates.

About WorldSpy

Founded in Ardsley, New York in 1997, WorldSpy Corporation was created to make online shopping more efficient. When the company’s founders applied their extensive knowledge of the commodities trading industry to a typical online shopping model, WorldSpy.com – the Internet’s first consumer e-commerce exchange – was born.

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

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Holiday Volume Up 14%

Card volume for the Thanksgiving to Christmas shopping season will run 14% above last year, according to figures released yesterday by CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]). The driving force is off-line debit cards, specifically ‘VISA Check’ cards and ‘MasterMoney’ cards. Both products are running 50%+ above last year’s volume level. Over the past five years major credit card Christmas volume has increased 68%, store card holiday volume has increased 52% and debit card xmas volume has increased 408%.

Historical  Holiday  Purchase  Volume  by  Payment

Card  Type        1998     1997        1996        1995       1994
Major Cards:    $83.0b    $74.5b     $67.1b     $58.9b     $49.1b
Store Cards:    $14.3b    $13.7b     $12.2b     $10.5b     $9.4b
Debit Cards:    $13.2     $8.8b       $5.5b       $4.3b      $2.6b
Total Cards:     $110.5    $97.0b     $84.8b     $73.7b     $61.1b
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

[Click Here to Read Special News Release: Xmas Stats][2]

[1]: http://www.carddata.com
[2]: http://www.cardweb.com/xmas_stats.html

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Mac-Gray Update

Mac-Gray Corporation announced Wednesday that it will purchase 600,000 redeemable shares of its common stock for approximately $7.6 million.  The purchase is part of an agreement governing its acquisition of Sun Services of America, Inc. in April 1997 prior to Mac-Gray’s initial public offering.  Purchase of the shares from the former owner of Sun Services, who currently serves as a Mac-Gray director, will be completed in January, 1999 using funds from Mac-Gray’s existing credit line.

In October, 1998 Mac-Gray’s Board of Directors approved a stock repurchase program authorizing the company to buy up to one million shares of its common stock in the open market.  Stewart MacDonald, chairman and chief executive officer of Mac-Gray, said today:  “This is a great opportunity for our company.  The repurchase plan was adopted because of recent valuations, and the price of these shares falls well within the range that we consider to be good value.  Even though these shares were not part of that contemplated plan, this purchase gives the company a good block of shares and it decreases our dependence on the daily volume and availability restrictions presented by the open market.  It is also good news for all remaining or prospective shareholders because it removes the market overhang that these shares have represented.”

Mac-Gray, founded in 1927, is one of the nation’s leading providers of laundry equipment and service to the multi-housing industry.  In March, 1998 it acquired Intirion Corporation, which produces the MicroFridge(R) family of compact refrigerators/freezers with microwave ovens.  MicroFridge is the leading choice of college and university housing officers for on-campus installation, and is used as well on military bases and in assisted-living facilities and the hotel/motel markets.  In April, 1998 Mac-Gray acquired Copico, Inc., the leading provider of vended reprographics services to the academic and public library markets in the Northeast and Florida.

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$2 Billion+ Online

Worldwide online retailing is projected to reach $2.35 billion for the 1998 holiday season, according to Gartner Group’s, Dataquest Inc.. Dataquest analysts said online shopping is growing as consumers realize the Internet allows them the ability to save time, money, and find a wide selection of various products in one place. It also appears that security is no longer a primary concern for shoppers.This holiday season also marks the dawn of the “shopping bot” which assists the Web cybershopper in comparing prices. Dataquest says the limitations with these shopping bots is in the breadth of categories and merchants whose sites they search; in future years, it’s safe to say that these bots will be more robust, especially those who are acquired by the major portal players.

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NEW DATACARD PRINTERS

DataCard unveiled five new value-priced printers Wednesday. The new DataCard ‘Select’ and ‘Express’ class printers offer a variety of new and enhanced capabilities, including print speeds that are as much as 50% faster than competitive offerings. In addition to a choice of print speeds, the new DataCard printers offer smart card and magnetic stripe capabilities, operator-replaceable printheads and an exclusive smart printer driver that allows users to manage every key function with on-screen error prompts and instructions. The DataCard ‘Select Class’ printers offer customers a choice of full-color or one-color printing on one side or both sides of a card. ‘Select Class’ printers also offer an edge-to-edge printing feature for maximum design flexibility and hands-free card cleaning to help ensure long-term reliability. The ‘DataCard Express’ Class includes the enhanced, full-color DataCard ‘ImageCard Express’ printer that delivers up to 75 cards per hour. The DataCard ‘UltraGrafix Express’ card printer rounds out the ‘Express Class’, featuring up to 250 card-per-hour speed for one-color applications.

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Online Tech Books

Computer Literacy, the leading online retailer of information resources for technology professionals, Wednesday announced a new Affiliates Program that enables individuals and businesses to integrate e-commerce into their own Web sites, selling technical and business books, manuals and training materials online. The company also introduced Computer Literacy Store Builder, an innovative step-by-step tool that allows affiliates to quickly and easily create unique online book and resource stores from their own Web sites.

Providing a direct link to Computer Literacy’s Internet retail store, the Affiliates Program is ideal for technology-focused businesses, portals, shopping bots, authors, publishers, Internet retailers, special interest groups, consultants and resellers. Computer Literacy’s new program is one of the strongest to be offered by a major e-commerce leader, providing referral fees of up to 20 percent and direct access to Computer Literacy’s world-class selection of more than 800 technical subject categories. In addition, Computer Literacy supports affiliates with easy storefront creation tools and monthly or quarterly traffic reports.

“A 20 percent referral fee is amazing. It’s 25 percent more generous than Amazon.com — and for authors like me, it means almost four times more income per book sale than we make in royalties alone! This Affiliates Program is almost as good as selling books out of my basement — but without having to mess with postage, credit card accounts, or paper cuts,” says David Pogue, author of the popular book, PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide and Computer Literacy affiliate.

Computer Literacy pays affiliates a standard 20 percent referral fee on all purchases of regularly discounted books and manuals that are individually linked from the affiliate site. For purchases of recommended interactive training materials, affiliates receive a 10 percent referral fee. Also, affiliates are paid a flat 5 percent referral fee for additional purchases the shopper makes from the Computer Literacy site during that visit. While most programs offer commissions on selected titles only, Computer Literacy pays affiliates for every title sold, including its selection of more than 1,800 interactive training titles priced as high as $3,000.

Computer Literacy Store Builder

Also available with the launch of the new affiliates program is Computer Literacy Store Builder, an innovative set of tools for easy setup of custom affiliate storefronts. To use Store Builder, an affiliate simply logs in to the Computer Literacy affiliates site, enters a password and then follows the easy, step-by-step instructions. Store Builder guides the new affiliate through the process of choosing the recommended titles for a particular audience, then organizes the information into a customer storefront complete with logo and a specialized recommended reading list.

“By listening to our customers, we’ve been able to design a new affiliates program that is simple, straightforward and lucrative,” said Robert Cudd, vice president of marketing for Computer Literacy. “Our affiliates can now take advantage of Computer Literacy’s broad selection of technical resources and reap the rewards of sending their technically-minded audience to ComputerLiteracy.com.”

To become a Computer Literacy affiliate, e-mail [affiliates@clbooks.com][1] or visit on the company’s Web site at [www.computerliteracy.com/affiliates][2].

Corporate Accounts

Through its FindITnow program for corporate partners, Computer Literacy simplifies the process of purchasing technical and business books, manuals and training materials by building custom sites within a corporation’s internal network, providing controlled employee access to Computer Literacy’s comprehensive range of technology information resources. Computer Literacy’s growing corporate customer base includes industry leaders such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard Company, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and Raytheon Company.

About Computer Literacy

Computer Literacy is the leading online retailer of information resources singularly focused on technical professionals. With more than 300,000 technology-focused information resource titles from more than 8,000 publishers, Computer Literacy offers individual and corporate customers online access to the broadest, most comprehensive selection of technical and business books, technology-based training solutions, product manuals, research reports and other information resources. The company offers discounts of up to 40 percent on books and resources and ships all in-stock orders placed by 4 PM PST on the same day the order is placed weekdays. Visit Computer Literacy on the web at [www.computerliteracy.com][3].

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties including, among others, Computer Literacy’s limited operating history, anticipated losses, the unpredictability of its future revenues, competition, risks associated with system development and operation risks, management of potential growth, and risks of new business areas, international expansion, business combinations, and strategic alliances. Actual results could differ materially from those discussed. More information about factors that potentially could affect Computer Literacy’s financial results is included in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Registration Statement filed on Form SB-2 on November 19, 1998, as amended. All forward looking statements are based on information available to the Company on the date hereof, and the Company assumes no obligation to update such statements.

The following companies are mentioned in this announcement: Amazon.com, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard Company, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Microsoft, Raytheon Company and Sun Microsystems. All company names are trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.

[1]: mailto:affiliates@clbooks.com
[2]: http://www.computerliteracy.com/affiliates
[3]: http://www.computerliteracy.com

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HELOC vs Credit Cards

Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., the nation’s largest independent mortgage lender, is now offering an online product that gives qualified borrowers quick access to cash through cutting edge technology.  The home equity line of credit provides homeowners with a personal financial tool that can help them achieve their financial objectives.

The 10-Day HELOC can be found in the Home Financing section of Countrywide’s Web site, .  Homeowners who have at least $15,000 in equity and good credit can take advantage of this cost-effective product.  The 10-Day HELOC is an excellent financial tool that provides homeowners with a revolving line of credit at a rate much lower than most credit cards.  Consumers can access cash at any time for debt consolidation, home remodeling, car financing, college tuition or income taxes.  With the holiday season in full swing, homeowners may find the 10-Day HELOC perfect for easing the financial strain.

“The 10-Day HELOC simplifies the process by utilizing Countrywide’s new automated underwriting and settlement services.  The new internet loan process enables borrowers to receive cash in less than two weeks,” said Cameron King, Executive Vice President of Countrywide’s Electronic Commerce Division.  “We have taken our automated underwriting engine, automated settlement service process and our automated appraisal system and merged them into the Countrywide Streamlined Loan Application.  Countrywide’s advanced technology on the Internet places the ‘decision making process’ close to the consumer to improve transaction speed and simplify the process.”

Features of the 10-Day HELOC include:

— Consolidation of high interest credit cards or personal loans into one lower monthly payment.     — Instant access to cash through check writing privileges.     — Lower interest rate than most consumer credit cards.     — Interest may be tax deductible(b).

Countrywide’s Web site uses advanced technology to simplify the loan process and offers accurate, easy to understand information.  The site features competitive rates and simple online applications for a full range of home loan products as well as access to Countrywide’s state of the art underwriting systems and electronic business partner integration systems. Countrywide’s site was established in September 1996 and is experiencing tremendous growth, funding more than $78 million in November of this year.

Homeowners who are interested in refinancing or buyers who would like to lock in an interest rate from the comfort of their own homes can visit the company’s Web site at .  To speak with a home loan expert directly, customers can call 800-479-8930.

Founded in 1969, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. originates, purchases, sells and services loans for single-family homes.  A member of the S&P 500, the company is headquartered in Calabasas, California and has more than 500 offices across the nation.

(a) Homeowners’ assistance in providing documentation and signing loan documents on short notice is necessary to ensure a 10-day close.     (b) Customers should consult their tax advisor regarding their personal tax situation.

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Bell South & Palm VII

BellSouth Wireless Data yesterday unveiled a groundbreaking technology feature called Wireless Subscription Management that allows easy, secure and instant activation and subscription management on the BellSouth Intelligent Wireless Network directly from a wireless appliance.

WSM debuted at the 1998 Palm Computing Worldwide Developers Conference in conjunction with the announcement of the new wirelessly enabled Palm VII connected organizer.  Palm VII organizer customers will be the first to use this completely automated procedure, right out-of-the-box, allowing them to activate the device on the BellSouth Intelligent Wireless Network and choose offerings on the new palm.net service.

“By integrating our innovative Wireless Subscription Management feature with wireless devices like the new Palm VII Connected Organizer,” noted William F. Lenahan, president and CEO of BellSouth Wireless Data, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based BellSouth Corporation, “we are simplifying the entire wireless enablement process for end-users, manufacturers and service providers.  This is a key to bringing the wireless data experience to the broad personal marketplace.  Consumers will be able to activate and select service plans easily.  Manufacturers and service providers will have an automated process that eliminates the need for personnel to handle activation orders, which positively affects their bottom line.

With WSM, consumers can activate their Palm VII organizer on the BellSouth Intelligent Wireless Network literally as soon as they complete their purchase.  Users simply raise the device’s antenna, select the level of service they desire through palm.net, enter billing and credit card or purchase order information, and in 60 seconds or less they are ready for interactive, wireless data communications.

BellSouth Wireless Data’s Wireless Subscription Management feature brings many other benefits to the marketplace as well.  For service providers, it delivers remote sessionless activation/deactivation abilities, on-line account management and help-desk services.  For device manufacturers it aids the manufacturing process by dynamically providing Mobitex Access Numbers (MANs) — similar to PINs — which releases the manufacturer from the responsibility of having to program a MAN into each device modem.  This results in lower price points and increased profitability for all parties.

About BellSouth Wireless Data

BellSouth Wireless Data, L.P., headquartered in Woodbridge, N.J., is an expert in providing proven wireless data communications solutions that eliminate the barriers between critical information and mobile users.  The company, a winner of the prestigious Sears Innovation Source of the Year and Partners in Progress awards for 1997, delivers a competitive advantage and increases personal productivity for aggressive, innovative companies and individuals leveraging communications technologies to meet their strategic goals.  BellSouth Wireless Data operates its wireless data service throughout the United States, covering more than 93 percent of the urban business population located in 266 metropolitan areas with a total population of 200 million people.

BellSouth Wireless Data is a subsidiary of BellSouth Corporation, which provides telecommunications, wireless communications, directory advertising and publishing, video, Internet and information services to nearly 30 million customers in 20 countries worldwide.

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Wal-Mart MasterCard

Chase Manhattan revealed yesterday that its ‘Wal-Mart MasterCard’ program has passed the 1.7 million cardholder mark. The card now ranks among the top ten co-branded programs in the U.S. The Wal-Mart card program recently received the highest customer satisfaction ranking from J.D. Power and Associates. Chase’s ‘Wal-Mart MasterCard’ features no annual fee and a fixed annual percentage rate of 14.48% on purchases. The card also offers 9.9% APR on balance transfers for the life of the loan. Wal-Mart Stores has 1,862 Wal-Mart stores, 544 Supercenters, and 451 Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. According to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]) Chase Manhattan had $31.6 billion in receivables and 31.7 million total cardholders as of Sept.30.

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

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