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2:44 PM

The Best Cities in Which to Celebrate New Year's Eve.

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Best Cities in Which to Have Fun-filled New Year’s Eve Celebration 
Without Having to Rob a Bank to Do It

Orlando, San Francisco, and Atlanta lead the New Year’s Eve parade for cost-effective NYE celebration, according to our friends at WalletHub. They are great cities in which to have fun. The Lobster speaks from first-hand experience and has no reason to believe NYE will be any different.

The WalletHub survey ranks Denver, Buffalo, and Cincinnati closely behind Orlando, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

No matter where you wake up on New Year’s Day, do the Lobster a favor and be safe on New Year’s Eve. Don’t get stupid and don’t rob any banks.

For more information on the best places to ring in the new year, or to see where your city ranks in terms of the most NYE bang for the buck visit www.wallethub.com.


The Lobster will greet the New Year in Kennett Square, Pa, the self-proclaimed Mushroom Capital of the World, where he will watch the lighting and dropping of a giant crystal mushroom.
2:01 PM

The Most Difficult Places to Stay off The Naughty List

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As we approach the Christmas season many of us are trying to avoid The Devil's Workshop in order to stay off of Santa's Naughty List and maximize our Christmas hauls.

In order to help you avoid the Naughty List, The Lobster presents the following list of the most sinful cities in the US, compiled by our good friends at WalletHub. Staying away from them should make it easier to have Santa inscribe your name on the Nice List.

Most Sinful Cities

1.  Las Vegas (I bet that was a tough call)
2.  St. Louis
3.  Cincinnati
4.  Orlando
5.  Springfield, Mo.
6.  Miami
7.  Richmond, Va.
8.  Baton Rouge
9.  Pittsburgh
10. New Orleans

The Lobster hopes that his counterparts at WalletHub didn't have to do a lot of personal research to develop this list.

The Lobster has spent time in 6 of these 10 cities and enjoyed them all.

To determine how fast your trip to the Naughty List will be WalletHub evaluated the 150 most populated cities based on the the occurrence of 7 deadly sinful behaviors: Anger and Hatred, Jealousy, Excesses and Vices, Avarice, Lust, Vanity and Laziness.

If you are looking for a quick trip to the Nice List, consider relocating to or staying in these least sinful cities,

141.  Santa Clarita, Ca.
142.  Glendale, Ca.
143.  Irvine, Ca.
144.  Santa Ana, Ca.
145.  Garden Grove, CA.
146.  Chula Vista, Ca
147.  Brownsville, Tx.
148.  Yonkers, NY
149.  Fremont, Ca.
150.  San Jose,

No clue to explain why 8 of the 10 least vice-ridden American cities are in California. Maybe they are "family values" cities and/or good places to raise kids.

For the record, Santa, The Lobster has visited 8 of the 10 least sinful cities, two more than the naughty cities he been to, and his hours logged in the nice cities exceed the time he has spent in the naughty places. However, in the interest of full disclosure, two of The Lobster's favorite cities to visit are on the Naughty List, Las Vegas and New Orleans. Honesty counts for something, doesn't it Santa.

For the full report or to see where your city ranks, please click over to https://wallethub.com/edu/most-sinful-cities-in-america/29846 But not until you have read The Lobster's other posts or otherwise perused this site.

According to WalletHub, St. Louis has the highest violent crime rate, per 1,000 residents, over 18. this is 33 times the rate in Irvine, Ca. the city with the lowest, 0.56.

According to the data, Las Vegas has the most adult entertainment businesses per 100,000 residents.


  
1:22 PM

The Government May Give You Stuff But That Doesn't Make It Free

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The Government May Give You Stuff But That Doesn't Make It Free

The Farmers Market Coalition has announced that its free SNAP EBT equipment program has been extended. Under the program USDA provides EBT equipment and services to farmers markets in order to allow more markets to accept EBT cards, thus making fresh fruits and vegetables more easily available to people who qualify for SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits. The equipment may be free to the farmers and markets, but is isn’t free. Someone has to pay for it.

For more information on the holiday season Give Away visit farmersmarketcoalition.org/back.free-snap-ebt-program-extended/?platform=hootsuite


Participating companies include MarketLink, MerchantSource, and TSYS.
1:11 PM

You Actually Can Save Money Paying with Plastic on Black Friday

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As the Lobster takes a break from detailing the recently completed EBT-the Next Generation conference, he along with his many followers, turns his attention, to the upcoming holidays.

Black Friday shoppers can save $500 or more, according to our friends at WalletHub, by shopping with one of the cards on their list of 2016's Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping, which you can find at www.wallethub.com. Happy Holidays and Shopping.

Economic soldiers, let's lift this economy. Get out there and shop. Fill that mall parking garage. Double-time through the mall hallways. Knock over those mall walkers. If they don't buy anything they are not contributing to the economy. A stiff forearm will remind them of their civic duty to spend. The more they spend the more jobs they will create for the rest of us.

The WalletHub list details the cards with the best bonuses to offset holiday spending, the cards with the best ongoing rewards programs, the best cards for avoiding interest, the best cards for lowering the cost of post-holiday debt, and the best store cards.

11:26 AM

Fraud and the SNAP Program

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On November 7th, I enjoyed moderating Front Page Focus, my signature panel, at EBT the Next Generation, the premier conference dedicated to exploring electronic-benefits transfer applications and technology.  This was my 17th Front Page Focus in the 19 years of the conference.

This year, Front Page Focus delved into the issue of fraud  in the SNAP (nee food stamp) Program.

To provide a 360 degree, non-partisan, factual examination of the topic I put together a panel consisting of a representatives of the Office of Public Benefits Integrity of the Florida Department of Children and Families, which  uses technology like data analytics to find patterns of fraud in benefit programs, the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, a trade association with a long history of supporting EBT in the SNAP program, and the Food Research and Action Center, group that lobbies on behalf of participants in nutrition programs and other anti-hunger issues, and Xerox State and Local Solutions, a major supplier of EBT services to state governments. 

Topics we covered included:

  • How serious a problem is fraud in the SNAP program. Answers ranged from “A single dollar lost to fraud is a dollar to much” to “Stories about fraud represent a small fraction of the total amount of benefits issued.

    • The anti-fraud technology baked into EBT systems. These include constant electronic monitoring of retail sales made with SNAP benefits. 

      • What state and federal lawmakers are saying about fraud in the SNAP Program.

        • The interest of State agencies in anti-fraud technology.


          3:24 PM

          EBT the Next Generation

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          Having recently participated in the 19th annual EBT the Next Generation conference which dissects the use of debit-card technology for the disbursement of government-to-consumer payments, I offer the following retrospective on the conference.

          We were proud to display our new Chaddsford Planning Associates exhibit-booth graphics designed by Rothacker Advertising and Design of Media, Pa. Rothacker was able to play off my EBT experience dating back to the first EBT project in Reading, Pa, comparing the many EBT projects that have followed Reading to the Big Bang Theory.  The graphics were innovative and eye-catching.

          The conference theme was how technology can help help combat fraud in federally funded nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly called the food stamp program).  I was proud to lead a plenary panel discussion of the subject. My chosen panelists included representatives of the State of Florida, which uses data analytics to find anomalies in disbursement patterns, the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, a trade association the members of which develop and operate electronic-payment systems, the Food Research and Action Center, a national anti-hunger group that supports EBT for its ability to improve the disbursement of nutrition benefits like SNAP, and Xerox, a leading developer and operator of EBT systems.

          We also presented our annual Pioneer Award to John Wojcik, a long-time payment industry veteran and a co-founder of the conference. John was so honored for his role selling the concept of EBT to Program Directors in all the states and territories. This included parachuting into all the state capitals with nothing more than a vision of replacing paper checks and food stamps with electronic transactions, a much less expensive and more dignified way of disbursing benefits.

          By any measure, this year's EBT the Next Generation was a rousing success, with record attendance and sponsorship and forward-facing sessions on topics like mobility and EBT, and EMV, and a Technology Showcase,  highlighting how technologies like biometrics can help in the fight against fraud.
          12:21 PM

          2016 Election Trivia

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          Election Day Trivia

          Most but not all of the following is courtesy of our friends at WalletHub.

          Defensive Voting. 46.5 percent of voters questioned say they their main objective in voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is to prevent the election of the other candidate.

          Hillary Clinton earned nearly 22 million in fees for speaking to a variety of audiences from 2013 to 2015. That covers 92 speeches and works out to an average of almost 240,000 per speech. They must have been electrifying speeches. Too bad the public can’t get a look at them.


          32 states this election cycle have voter ID laws.
          1:50 PM
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          Mobility and EBT

          Smart phones are changing the way people are interacting, such as using social media from Facebook to Instagram, Twitter to WhatsApp. Now, mobile apps are looking to change the way we conduct financial transactions through e-Commerce. 

          This year’s EBT—The Next Generation conference offers a breakout session that looks at mobile apps being used today for commercial payments and how they may be used in the future for handling payment of government benefits. 

          Examples of these are- person to person payments (P2P), mobile wallets, Samsung pay, ATM single pay (mobile-ATM). This session discuss the ways these technologies can and will affect your programs.  

          Advances in payment technologies help EBT practitioners practitioners do our jobs more effectively and introduce opportunities for efficiencies and enhanced customer experiences. Smartphone mobile applications are just one of the ways technology is rapidly changing how consumer payments are being processed.  

          EBT—The Next Generation is the only national conference dedicated to providing this exciting new payment technology information, along with many other sessions dedicated to current and future activities and trends within the EBT industry. 


          So don’t miss out! Register today for EBT—The Next Generation Conference today. To register for the conference, visit https://www. practitioners.com/conferences/ebt-next-gen/registration .
          1:22 PM

          EBT Goes Online to Solve the Food-Desert Problem

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          The US Agriculture Department, which administers what is colloquially known as the Food Stamp Program, is toying with the idea of allowing program participants to purchase food online. This is made possible because the program uses Electronic Benefits Transfer technology to authorize purchases. 

          EBT uses standard debit-card technology and infrastructure to authorize food purchases for eligible shoppers. Since cardholders in the program must be preauthorized, EBT helps harden the program against fraud by providing an audit trail of data that the bad guys can only guess at. If they haven't caught you yet, they will. Furthermore, food retailers, online or on site, must be certified by the federal government to ensure they are legitimate retail food sellers.

          Many analysts who track the program believe that online sales will help alleviate the problem of so-called food deserts. The Agriculture Department defines a food deserts as an area where at least 500 people or at least 33 percent of the population live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. In rural stretches of the country the 1-mile boundary is widened to 10 miles. (see http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tense/2016/09/food_stamp_recipients_should_be_able_to_shop_online.html

          The Agriculture Department this year will be testing whether online sales can solve the food-desert issue while maintaining the integrity of the program, its resistant to fraud and abuse.
          12:05 PM
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          Getting the Most Out of EBT the Next Generation

          If past attendance figures are a prologue to the future, about half of all EBT the Next Generation attendees this year will be attending their first NextGen. For first time conference attendees and anyone else who drops by we offer a 30 minute orientation session scheduled at 12 O’clock Monday, November 6th. 

          If you are planning to attend your first EBT Rodeo this coming November, we will welcome you at this session.

          The purpose of the session is to help you get the most out of the conference. The purpose of this email is to provide some early guidance on the orientation session so that you can be more productive from the time you arrive at the hotel.

          As always, EBT professionals with hands-on experience will conduct all sessions with the emphasis on practical information.

          The most important information that the orientation session will cover is how NextGen is organized. We begin the content with 4 workshops. These are 1) A primer on how EBT works; 2) Readying your EBT system for a natural disaster or shutdown; 3) Successfully implementing WIC EBT; and 4) The details of implementing an EBT system with SNAP and TANF benefits.

          Following the workshops, we launch into 4 plenary sessions and 10 breakout sessions, covering diverse topics that include mobility, data mining, and the future of EBT.  The breakouts also include an update by FNS on some of the hottest issues confronting EBT practitioners, including mobility, Internet shopping, SNAP rules, procurements, and conversions

          We also will have 2 EBT roundtables, one SNAP/Cash-centric and the other WIC-facing. In these relaxed settings EBT professionals can exchange opinions on a variety of issues facing the EBT community.

          Also on tap are 2 technology showcases featuring demos and discussion of the newest gismos and ideas available to EBT programs.


          In addition, spread throughout the conference agenda is over 10 hours of networking time with your fellow attendees and industry vendors.
          1:53 PM

          EBT A Quarter-Century On A New Electronic Payments Possibility

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          Electronic-payments professionals interested in checking out new business opportunities may want to participate in a long established conference set for November 6-8 in Florida. Dubbed EBT the Next Generation it brings together 300 buyers and influencers in this booming EPS segment that uses electronic-payments technology to deliver government payments and benefits.

          EBT-the Next Generation offers a banquet of information for EBT and EPS professionals new to the field. This informational feast includes 4 workshops that provide a solid foundation in EBT technology and applications.

          These workshops are How EBT Works, Determining if Your EBT System Can Withstand a Natural Disaster, The Elements of a Successful WIC EBT Implementation, The Details of an EBT Program That includes Both SNAP and Cash.

          Together, these workshops will provide an understanding of the basic technology of EBT, what needs to be done to ready and harden your EBT system in preparation for the disasters that seem almost inevitable for many states, how to successfully stand up a WIC EBT system, the details of an EBT system that includes both SNAP and cash. These are four of the most important things a well-rounded EBT pro can know.

          The purpose of the workshops is to provide our newest colleagues with the information necessary to get their EBT careers off to a good start.

          Our seasoned EBT vets can also profit from the workshops and we welcomed your attendance, as well.

          As always, out most experienced EBT practitioners present our workshops. 

          For 18 years our workshops have proven to be one of our most popular conference features, right next to the open bar, and the all-you-can-eat buffet lunches.


          1:25 PM

          The Future of EBT

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          It is hard to believe, but EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) is now a mature sub-industry within the Electronic Payments industry.  It has been 25 years since the first statewide rollout of EBT in Maryland to replace paper food stamps. 

          Congress has mandate that all States use EBT technology to deliver SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefit which they all did by 2002. 

           Now the Woman, Infants and Children program is also well on its way to meetings it own 2020 Congressional order to roll out EBT nationwide. Over 40% of WIC participants are now on EBT. WIC like SNAP is a supplemental nutrition program run by the federal Agriculture Department.

          But with the rapid changes in the electronic payment industry, as well as the changes in the providers of EBT services, we wonder what the future holds for this multi-billion dollar business?  Will its future development mirror changes in the overall electronic payments industry.

          To help answer this question, this year’s EBT—The Next Generation conference (November 6-8, Sheraton Sand Key, Clearwater Beach, Fl,) has two breakout sessions dedicated to looking at the future of EBT. 

          The first session is Strategies for Long-Term EBT Viability.  In this session, the Ag Department’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees both SNAP and WIC will discuss its 2014 Request for Information on EBT. The purpose of the RFI was to identify short and long-term strategies for the Future of EBT and action plans to move these strategies forward. 

          The second session is The Future of EBT, where industry players will look 5-10 years down the road to discuss what the grocery shopping experience may possibly look like. From EMV Cards to mobile applications, other payment technology that might also be in use will be explored, along with the capabilities of SNAP and WIC clients in using this technology. 
           gotten such a powerful boost and endorsement.

          But with the rapid changes in the electronic payment industry, as well as the changes in the providers of EBT services, we wonder what the future holds for this multi-billion dollar business? A business that has churned out billions of transactions and millions of cardholders. Will its future development mirror changes in the overall electronic payments industry. Will new players be attracted to the business, drawn by its high volumes and relatively stable risk profile.

          To help answer these question, this year’s EBT—The Next Generation conference (November 6-8, Sheraton Sand Key, Clearwater Beach, Fl,) has two breakout sessions dedicated to looking at the future of EBT. 

          The first session is Strategies for Long-Term EBT Viability.  In this session, the Ag Department’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees both SNAP and WIC will discuss its 2014 Request for Information on EBT. The purpose of the RFI was to identify short and long-term strategies for the Future of EBT and action plans to move these strategies forward. 

          The second session is The Future of EBT, where industry players will look 5-10 years down the road to discuss what the grocery shopping experience may possibly look like. From EMV Cards to mobile applications, other payment technology that might also be in use will be explored, along with the capabilities of SNAP and WIC clients in using this technology.  

          To attend EBT the Next Generation, visit https://www.atmia.com/conferences/ebt-next-gen/ 


          12:40 PM

          EBT the Next Generation Overview

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          We are in the final steps of putting the agenda together for the 19th annual EBT the Next Generation conference. EBT is a multi-billion dollar business opportunity for companies in the electronic-payments industry, including payments processors, financial institutions, networks, manufacturers of payment-processing terminals, and government-payments consultants.

          All buyers and influencers will be there.

          The 3-day conference features 10 hours of networking time, an orientation workshop for first-time attendees, 4 beginners workshops, 10 more advanced panel discussions, 2 technology showcases, 4 plenary sessions, and EBT-centric discussions on topics that include data mining, retailer technology and EBT, mobility and EBT, and the future of EBT.

          NextGen will be hosted at the beautiful Sheraton Sand Key in scenic Clearwater Beach, Florida, from November 6-8.


          Hotel information
          1160 Gulf Blvd.
          Sheraton Sand Key
          Clearwater Beach, FL

          1-800-456-7263
          9:56 AM

          The Content Marketing Equation

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          The Content Marketing Equation

          Has there ever been a more overused and misunderstood phrase in marketing. Content  marketing is a redundancy . All good marketing is content marketing. Because all good marketing is target marketing. Content marketing lets us target a message to a narrowly defined audience interested in that content.

          There are three variables in the content marketing equation. The content, the message, and the audience. Mostly, the focus is on the content variable  Lets not allow this content focus be at the expense of the message or the audience variables. 


          In order for your marketing to be successful your message also must be appropriate for your audience.

          Be certain that your vehicle for content-delivery is appropriate for both your content and the audience with which you are trying to connect. Regardless of whether that messaging vehicle is a 30-second spot, a white paper, a trade show booth, or anything else. 

          That is not to say that the same content cannot be delivered in multiple message vehicles. It can and should, with each message integrated with the others. All of the messaging vehicles  must be appropriate for your target audience.

          So, lets call this audience marketing rather than content marketing. Lets make the audience that you are trying to reach with your content the starting point. Then tailor your message and vehicles to that audience.    


            
          12:55 PM

          The Importance of Traditional Media in a Digital World

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          The Importance of Traditional Media in a Digital World

          In the interest of fair discloser, I write this as a recovered reporter and news director and current PR practitioner. 

          The worlds of traditional and digital media are closer than might at first glance appear. I am a big proponent of digital media but the first thing I do every morning is read the print editions of the Wall Street Journal and our local county newspaper, the Daily Local News, both of which I have home-delivered.

          Having written that, I will still cop to visiting the websites of any number of news aggregators throughout the day to get additional details in specific areas, such as sports, finance, or health care.

          Similarly, any print journo worth his or her salt has a presence on the web, especially services like Twitter and Linkedin, and is also a consumer of digital information from traditional and non-traditional sources, such as blogs like the Lobster Shift.

          Traditional and non-traditional new sources should be complementary not exclusive in your PR campaign.


          How this will work depends on your target audience.
          2:01 PM

          Government Branding

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          Government Branding


          Branding your agency is not aping the private sector or selling out to Madison Avenue. Branding a government agency or service is as important as any other way you engage the consumers of the services you offer.

          You will soon come to understand that if you ask 10 experts to outline the branding process you are likely to end up with 10 different outlines. But simply put branding is the process by which an agency establishes the image by which it wants the public to know it.

          Private sector marketers have the luxury of narrowcasting to a target audience.  Branding in the public sector differs in that the target audience is likely to be comprised of several sub-audiences whose common denominator may only be that they hold the drivers licenses your agency is responsible for, or that their financial circumstances make them eligible for the food stamps your agency issues.

          Properly identifying those sub-audiences will be critical to developing your brand. 

          In addition, often public sector branding campaigns focuses too much on what agency management thinks about the nascent brand, and not enough on the rank and file workers who are the ones who interact on a daily basis with the customers.  Therefore, any agency branding campaign should hold council with workers whose job titles are “clerk” “eligibility technician” or their equivalent in your agency.

          Finally, any public sector branding campaign must include the agency’s customers, in order to develop a baseline understanding of the agency’s current public image. Without this starting point it will be difficult to develop an effective brand for future growth. 

          Remember that the goal is customer engagement.

          We have worked with government for 25 years and offered marketing services for a like period. 


          12:24 PM

          Branding Case Study

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          Case Study: Service Branding

          The Electronic Funds Transfer Association is a thirty-year-old trade association based in Fairfax County, Virginia. Its core members are organizations involved in the facilitation of consumer electronic payments, such as credit or debit card transactions. 

          Although it is based near Washington, DC, it is not a lobbying organization, per se. However, it does engage in government-relations on behalf of its members. Unlike more parochial trade groups competing for the same members, EFTA represents many different segments of the same market.

          We were able to help EFTA turn this feature into a branding differentiator. This differentiator gives EFTA more credibility when speaking with members of Congress or regulators since they know that whatever position the Association espouses has been vetted across the entire Electronic Payments industry.

          Buiding consensus across a diverse industry gives the Association the credibility that allows it to work effectively with the Federal government since credibility and consensus are values shared by both the Association membership and the Federal officials with whom they work.

          The result has been effective Government Relations which has led to an increase in membership as more and more organizations realize the value of effective dialog between the Federal government and all segments of industry. 

          The effectiveness of that dialog depends of those shared values of consensus and credibility which underlie the EFTA brand.
          12:55 PM
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          Values-based Branding 


          Determine who your core customers are.

          Figure out exactly how you want your brand to be known or seen by your core customers.

          Develop a values inventory that lists the values you believe your customers hold along with the characteristics of your product that demonstrate those values and how your brand represents them.

          Honestly review your existing communications and decide which ones allow your brand to be known the way you want it known and why. Those will provide a template for how to communicate the values your brand represents.

          Correlated the customers' values with the product characteristics that best demonstrates those values. Focus is important at this step; keep the list to no more than 3 values and 3 characteristics per value. 

          Next add the features of your existing communications that best demonstrate this relationship.
          10:55 AM
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          Big Data: The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a large cache of consumer data that speaks volumes about customer buying, spending and lifestyle choices

          However, Chuck Martin, editor of IoT Daily, notes in his April 6 column that a new study including research by Oxford Economics and commissioned by Verizon shows that only about 8% of companies are using their Internet-generated data in a significant way. Significant here means using more than 25% of their IoT data. 

          The two main drivers behind the use of IoT data are the same ones that have driven business since the beginning of commerce. A desire to increase revenue and a need to reduce cost.

          While the percentage of companies making significant use of IoT data is minuscule right now, the study estimates that nearly half of businesses with IoT data will be using more than 25% of it within two to three years. 

          But that means that 3 years from now 1 of every 2 businesses with IoT data will continue a hands-off approach to using this information for business-building purposes

          The Internet of Things denotes the constantly expanding network of physical devices that use an IP address to connect and communication with other Internet-enabled devices and systems. These devices include programmable home thermostats and wearable fitness-monitoring devices.


          Another factor that comes into play is the reluctance of consumers to share personal data for what might be considered “off-label” uses. 
          9:12 AM

          Operation Choke Point

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          Operation Choke Point

          Missouri Member of Congress Blaine Luetkemeyer has contacted the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as well as the FDIC Inspector General concerning Operation Choke Point. 

          Operation Choke Point is a formerly covert Department of Justice initiative to coerce banks to deny banking services to numerous categories of business based on a perception that those types of businesses could present a higher risk of fraud and money laundering. In the financial-services sector those merchant categories include money-transfer networks, pawn shops, and payday lenders. 

          Luetkemeyer's letters sent earlier this month were in response to a report of FDIC staff accessing emails and documents from the OIG, a report confirmed on June 13 by the FDIC. Congressman  Luetkemeyer stated that the breach raised "serious concerns for the independent nature in which the OIG investigation into Operation Choke Point was conducted." He further called Operation Choke Point "an unparalleled abuse of authority"

          He further stated "anything that calls into question the ability of an inspector general to conduct independent investigations would only add to the environment of mistrust that has been fostered" by Operation Choke Point. 

          While ferreting out fraud and money laundering in the financial system is an admirable goal, most business in these categories are legitimate and provide valuable consumer financial services. The problem with Operation Choke Point is that it paints all the businesses in these categories with the same broad brush. 

          This adversely affects vulnerable consumers. Money transfer services are the only way for many consumers without bank accounts to make safe and reliable C2C or C2B payments. Explain Operation Choke Point to a serviceman who finds that the payday lender that has set up shop near his base is suddenly closed because its source of cash has been chocked off leaving him no way to buy a bus ticket home to see his girlfriend and family. Explain it to the senior citizen who can't find a pawn broker to purchase her old, now-meaningless jewelry, so she can raise some cash. Many of these companies are small, entrepreneurial businesses. We should be encouraging the creation of small, neighborhood businesses like these, not discriminating against them.


          To read Luetkemeyer's letters, visit www.efta.org.
          11:46 AM

          Flight 93 and July 4th

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          Flight 93 and July 4th 

          The July 4th holiday is too often marked by automobile-dealer sales, excessive consumption of alcohol, and lawn-games like Corn Hole or Badminton. 

          This 4th the family and I did something different. We visited the Memorial to the 40 victims of United Flight 93. This was 1 of 4 airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001 by terrorists intent on crashing the aircraft into various symbols of American power. 

          Two of the planes destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, a symbol of American commercial and financial power. The third took out the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, the symbol of American military power. 

          The fourth plane, United Flight 93, never reached its intended target, the US Capitol, an enduring symbol of American democracy, recognizable the world over as such. 

          The terrorists who hijacked Flight 93 failed in their mission of death and destruction, thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of the 40 crew members and passengers aboard Flight 93, who refused to be part of the terrorists' evil plot. They forced the plane down in a rocky, but beautiful field in Western Pennsylvania, far short of the terrorists' intended target in Washington, DC. 

          Viewing the Memorial that commemorates their bravery standing up to the tyranny of terrorism, I was struck by the similarity to two other national monuments in Pennsylvania, Independence Hall and Valley Forge Military Park. 

          Independence Hall being where the American Founding Fathers' Continental Congress met to pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in their rebellion agains what they saw as the tyranny of British King George, knowing that if their plot failed they would be ruined.

           Valley Forge, of course, was the site of Gen. George Washington's Revolutionary War Army encampment near Philadelphia during the brutally cold winter of 1777-1778. No battle was fought as Vally Forge, but hundreds of solders succumb to disease, hunger, and the cold. Vally Forge was one of the war's turning points. The forge on which a nation was formed.

          The courage and resolve that the Flight 93 crew and passengers showed in the face of certain death  was similar to that shown by the Founders at Independence Hall. 

          Similarly, the survivors at Vally Forge looking out of their cabins at their mates being carried away could have felt the same hopelessness that some of those aboard Flight 93 may have felt looking through the cabin windows seeing that Pennsylvania field getting closer and closer 



          12:38 PM

          The recently released Federal Reserve report on mobile banking shows a significant increase in adoption of the mobile channel for banking

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          The growth in mobile banking parallels the broad proliferation of smartphones across American society, as well as a desire for convenience. The report is the Fed’s fifth annual study of mobile banking in America.

          In the online survey 43 percent of adults with mobile phones and bank accounts reported having used mobile banking. This was a 4 percent lift over the report of the prior year. 

          Most commonly, mobile bankers used the channel to check account balances. Other popular mobile banking tasks were transferring money between accounts,  or receiving electronic alerts from their Fi. 

          The report shows that an impediment to adoption of mobile banking and payments continues to be security concerns. 

          Over half of mobile banking adopters cited the mobile channel as one of the three most important ways they interact with their banks.

          Use of mobile payments continues to lag adoption of mobile banking.


          The complete 2016 report as well as a video summary can be obtained at http//www.federalreserve.gov/communitydev/mobile_finance.htm
          2:40 PM
          by , in
          Welcome to the Lobster Shift.  Also known as the graveyard shift, it's when you live your life backwards, or contrary,  to everyone else.  Here you'll find interesting analysis and commentary on business issues in the tech sectors, especially payments and healthcare,  that may be a little contrary to how others are looking at them. 
          2:26 PM
          by , in

          Hiring a Consultant
          There are many reasons to hire a consultant. Here are a few of them. As well as Information on finding a good consultant, selecting a consultant who is the best fit for your organization, how to budget for a consultant’s fees, and how to unpack a consultant’s bill to understand the charges.

          What a consultant can do for you.

          First and foremost a consultant will quickly fill in gaps in your staff’s knowledge. These are generally sub-tasks of a job that require specializes experience or knowledge. For example, you may have a staffer who writes press releases but unless she has worked in a newsroom she may not know the best days of the week to sent that release. Similarly, she may not know the mandatory information to include and what to exclude. Or the best format to use.

          Expand your organization’s skill level. For example, if your company is bidding on a competive-procured contract, and you meet most of the mandatory requirements, but lack expertise in one or two areas, plugging in a consultant or two is one way to fill those holes in your proposal.

          To build the organization’s credibility through the addition of qualified experienced resources.

          Before hiring a consultant ask your team the following questions.

          Exactly what is it that you want the consultant to accomplish?
          What level of experience should the consultant have in these areas?
          Where will the consultant be within the organization chart?
          What must the consultant do to fit in to the organization?

          Where to find a consultant

          If you are searching for marketing, PR or government-payments consultant look no further. Chaddsford Planning Associates provides 30 years of experience in these areas. Our clients have included financial institutions, manufactures, state and federal government agencies, trade associations, and technology companies, and other consultants.

          Other consultants may be located through references, directories within specific verticals, trade shows and publications.

          Selecting the right consultant

          Ask your team the following questions before retaining any consultant, in order to made sure she is a good fit within your organization.

          • Exactly what is it that you want the consultant to accomplish?
          • What level of experience should the consultant have in these areas?
          • Where will the consultant be within the organization chart?
          • What must the consultant do to fit in to the organization?
          • Is anyone here threatened by our bringing a consultant on board?

          Define the consultant’s role with the greatest possible specificity including
          • The overarching goals of the project or plan the consultant will work on.
          • How you expect the consultant to help the team reach those goals.
          • How work will be divided between the team and the consultant.
          • What outcomes do you expect from the plan or project.
          • The project plan for completion of the task including deadlines, milestones, total estimated time to completion, manpower requirements, and total estimated budget including labor.

          Defining the cost of a consultant

          The first step in figuring what a consultant will cost is to define the exact scope of the work you want the consultant to accomplish.

          The second step in figuring the cost of a consultant is to put financial parameters on the project by deciding how much money you have to spend on the consultant’s contract.

          The third step is finding a source to fund the consultant’s contract once you have put parameters around the cost.

          The fourth step is to do some simple market research. This will involve locating 2 or 3 potential consultants who have successfully completed work similar to your scope. It is also a good idea to interview references for each candidate to get a feel for which candidate would be the best fit will your organization. You can compile a list of prospects from references, LinkedIn, or professional directories.

          Having defining the exact scope of your work, and established a budget, found a source of funding, and identified some potential consultants, you are now ready to select a consultant.

          Picking the right consultant for the job

          Step 1 is to empower the staff that will be responsible for working with the consultant to defined the consultant’s role and to help make the selection. This will help ensure that the working relationship between the consultant and staff is smooth and will help avoid staff jealous that could lessen the effectiveness of the consultant.

          Step 2 is to ensure that the selection committee represents a diverse array of opinions of the project’s execution.

          Step 3 is to decide who should have the final word on hiring the consultant.





          2:00 PM
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          History was made April 17 when American Martin Frey became the first person to climb the highest summit on each of the seven continents and sail the seven seas of the world.

          56-year old Martin Frey finished his quest to climb the highest mountains and sail the deepest seas by skippering a sailboat across the Pacific Ocean from China to Seattle. This was the sixth leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race covering 6,000 nautical miles.

          The grueling, month-long race was one of Frey’s toughest challenges in his marathon quest.  He and his crew were constantly buffeted by storms with wind speeds at times exceeding 120 miles per hour.

          The skipper called the sailings conditions, which included massive waves, a truly hostile environment. Upon completion of the voyage, Frey said “spending the last month at sea has been a challenge, and I am grateful to be back on solid ground no longer soaking wet, cold or seasick.”

          In addition to the Clipper race Frey sailed across the Arctic Ocean and circumnavigated the world.

          Frey began his 7 Summits adventure in 2005 at Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. By the time he climbed Mount Vinson in Antarctica in 2012 he had conquered the highest peak on all seven continents.

          Leadership is being able to accomplish your goals in the face of adversity.

          With his unprecedented mountaineering and sailing accomplishment behind him, Frey hopes to inspire others through speaking engagements that will blend tales of his adventures with stories from his 30 years of experience as a business executive, including a long stint in Silicon Valley and service as a state economic-development officer, and as an angel investor.

          For more information, visit 7summits7seas.org.

          12:57 PM
          by , in
          You could be the next victim of a $2 billion criminal enterprise

          Another unintended consequence of fraud-fighting. As banks issue more and more EMV-compliant cards in order to reduce the counterfeiting of credit and debit cards, fraudsters are turning to other less protected avenues to get their hands on your money.

          This is according to a new report titled “Contact Centers: The Fraud Enable Channel.” by Boston-based Aite Group LLC.

          One such avenue is your bank’s contact center, the place you call when you have a problem with your card or account. Fraudsters will order replacement cards on your account and thus take it over. Sometimes this requires your personal information stolen in another crime like a data breach or easily poached through social media.

          Perpetrators of this type of crime can also request that a new person be added to your account with a new card being issued to him. He could also ask to open a new account in your name using your personal data, which he has already stolen.

          Because these ID thieves have already stolen your personal data they know where you live and can stake out your mailbox and intercept the new card while you are at work, before you ever see it. Thus, adding mail theft to his list of criminal offenses.  And the nature of the crime is such that you would never even know that a new card was on its way.

          One of these thieves might also call the help desk and pretend he is you while traveling and claim to need your account number in order to make an online purchase.

          Counterfeit cards is a $2 billion a year illicit business is the U.S. ¾ of financial institutions contacted by Aite about contact-center fraud said this type of fraud is on the upswing.  Of the institutions that have seen a rise in fraud. 17% say it has jumped at least 25% in the prior year. For the report Aite interviewed 25 executives from 18 of the 40 largest financial institutions.

          To read the Aite report on contact center fraud, visit the Aite website at aitegroup.com/report/contact-centers-fraud-enablement-channel
          1:34 PM
          by , in
          Why consumers continue to resist mobile payments

          Banks, retailers, phone and tech companies have spent millions of dollars developing and marketing systems that will allow us to make purchases using our mobile phones. All of this effort rests on a belief that buyers will arrive at the conclusion that paying by phone is faster and more convenient than pulling out a wallet in the checkout line and paying with cash.

          Despite this massive technology push, only the smallest fraction of in-store sales are paid for by customers using mobile phones. According to data gathered by research firm eMarketing. the  percentage of in-store sales in the United States made using mobile phones in 2015 was 0.02

           Some of the reasons mobile purchasing has been slow to catch on include security concerns as well as doubts that mobile is faster or more convenient than paying with a debit or credit card. A Peter Eavis story in the New York Times provides a deeper understanding of this issue.

          Adoption of mobile pay has also been slowed by technology hurdles. For example many mobile pay applications use a technology called near field communication or NFC. Many older payment terminals do not have NFC capability. This means that customers wishing to use their mobile pay app at those merchant locations will be out-of -luck.

          Mobile pay services also may offer other services to allay security concerns. For example 2-factor authentication using a biometric can harden a purchase transaction to the point where it is sounder than cash.

          Some services use technology that permits the phone to transmit a credit card payment without sending certain card elements to the store’s  payment system.

          But because federal law insulates credit and debit card holders from responsibility for most fraudulent charges, securing the mobile pay app may not be enough of an incentive to spur the growth of the market.
          4:02 AM

          The State of Working Moms

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          The State of Working Moms

          With Mothers Day fast approaching, examining how working moms fare from state-to-state is a timely exercise. According to WalletHub moms who are the sole support of their families make up almost three-quarters of all working women.

          WalletHub offers the following state-by-state analysis of conditions for working moms.

          Best States for Working Moms

          Vermont
          Minnesota
          Connecticut
          North Dakota
          Massachusetts
          Illinois
          Wisconsin
          Colorado
          Kansas
          New Jersey

          Worst States for Working Moms

          New Mexico
          Georgia
          Idaho
          Mississippi
          Arizona
          Alaska
          Louisiana
          South Carolina
          Alabama
          Nevada

          Comparing states based on issues of concern for working moms

          Day Care

          The survey rated New York as having the highest day care quality, 5 times better than Idaho, the state rated the worst for day care quality.

          WalletHub rates Mississippi as having the lowest child care costs as a share of the median women’s salary, 12 percent. This is twice as low as Florida, the state with the highest. WalletHub estimates that in the Sunshine State child care consumes 27 percent of the median women’s salary.

          Medical Care

          The District of Columbia has nearly 50 pediatricians per 100,000 residents.  This is almost 18 times the ratio in Wisconsin, the state will the fewest, less than 3 per 100,000 residents.

          Economics

          The District of Columbia has the highest ratio of female executives to male executives, at just under 66. This is about 3 times more than the mark in Utah, the state with the lowest ratio of female to male executives, just under 26.

          Maryland has the lowest percentage of single-mom families with minor children in poverty. At 26 percent, Maryland’s marker is about half that of Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage at nearly 52 percent.

          Virginia sets the mark for the highest inflation-adjusted median women’s salary at nearly $45,500. This is two times higher than in Hawaii the state with the lowest, at less than 23,000.

          The state with the lowest female unemployment rate is North Dakota. Its unemployment rate of just under 3 percent is about one-third that of the District of Columbia, the place with the highest woman unemployment rate at almost 8.5 percent.

          For the full report, visit wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565/
          7:38 AM
          by , in
          The recently released Federal Reserve report on mobile banking shows a significant increase in adoption of the mobile channel for banking.

          The growth in mobile banking parallels the broad proliferation of smartphones across American society, as well as a desire for convenience. The report is the Fed’s fifth annual study of mobile banking in America.

          In the online survey 43 percent of adults with mobile phones and bank accounts reported having used mobile banking. This was a 4 percent lift over the report of the prior year.

          Most commonly, mobile bankers used the channel to check account balances. Other popular mobile banking tasks were transferring money between accounts,  or receiving electronic alerts from their Fi.

          The report shows that an impediment to adoption of mobile banking and payments continues to be security concerns.

          Over half of mobile banking adopters cited the mobile channel as one of the three most important ways they interact with their banks.

          Use of mobile payments continues to lag adoption of mobile banking.

          The complete 2016 report as well as a video summary can be obtained at federalreserve.gov/communitydev/mobile_finance.htm
          6:47 AM
          by , in
          Who’s Watching You While You are
          Watching TV

          As connected TVs, smart thermostats and smartphone-controlled door locks proliferate in American homes so do concerns about exactly how secure and private those connections are.

          According to a post on Mediapost’s Internet Of Things Daily Connected Thinking a new study shows that nearly 60 percent of consumers said they were very or highly concerned about being hacked or suffering a data breach through their connected devices. 

          These concerned cover a range of issues. Sixty-eight percent expressed concern over security issues like viruses, malware, and being hacked, Sixty-five percent expressed fear that devise manufacturers could collect their data via the connection. Fifty-one percent were afraid of privacy breaches.

          More than a third of those surveyed had already experienced a security or privacy incident. Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents possessed advanced technical skills, and still were not confident that they could secure their connected devices.

          More than a third of the respondents said they didn’t know how to change their password on their home router. More than 60 percent said they couldn’t configure their routers to keep their home networks safe.

          The Federal Trade Commission on March 31 announced a series of three seminars this fall on consumer privacy and protection. Each seminar will focus on a different technology threat. On December 7 the FTC will take a hard look at Smart TVs.   

          The Commission reminds us that now “virtually all television delivery systems - smart TVs, streaming devices, game consoles, apps, and even old-fashioned set-top boxes-track your viewing habits. Manufacturers of TVs and streaming devices, the advertising industry, and others collaborate to learn was you are watching. “

          The FTC will explore tracking technology as well as your understanding about how you are being watched while you are watching TV.

          Smart TV manufacturer Vizio is currently facing a federal lawsuit for allegedly sharing information about people’s viewing histories, according to the daily Examiner.
          7:17 AM
          by , in

          Has Oberthur Technologies cracked the code on combatting online credit card fraud?

          Oberthur, a global provider of payment card security products, says that 80 percent of respondents in a survey covering online fraud expressed a preference for a card which could provide dynamic card security, over a card with a printed, static 3-digit Card-Verification Value.

          The printed, static 3-digit CVV is the current credit-card industry standard.

          The Oberthur dynamic-security solution, dubbed Motion Code, would replace the static, printed CVV with a dynamic CVV that is generated algorithmly and is automatically refreshed every hour.  The dynamic CVV is displayed on a mini-screen.  After the hour in which the dynamic CVV is generated the number is no longer operative making the data worthless to identity thieves.

          The dynamic card verification process does not add any steps to the online purchase, says Oberthur. But the company is silent on whether the new technology will add time to the purchase transaction. A slower transaction may slow adoption. Also, it would be interesting to know how the mini-screen concept will work.

          “Online fraud is now 65 percent of total card fraud. That’s why Oberthur developed its dynamic card-verification technology” says Martin Ferenczi, President of North America at Oberthur Technologies.

          According to Oberthur, survey respondents overwhelmingly described the Oberthur card-security solution as “an efficient answer to online fraud,” or “easy to use” or “innovative.”

          The survey covered 231 respondents, and was conducted online. Sixty percent of respondents were women and 40 percent were men. Five age brackets (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-plus) were equally represented, according to the company.

          Oberthur Technologies is present in the global payment, telecommunications and identity-security markets. Its international network serves clients in 140 countries. There is no question that online fraud is a serious problem for consumers, as well as their financial institutions and the merchants from whom they buy. Nor is the fact that Oberthur has the resources, bandwidth and experience to develop products that help reduce “card not present” fraud in question. The question is whether Oberthur’s  Motion Code ™ dynamic card verification product  can succeed  in this mission where many others have failed.
          4:43 AM
          by , in

          Are Holders of Unused Gift Cards Left Holding the Bag When The Retailed That Issued Those Cards Declares Bankruptcy?
           
          When a retailer goes out of business, are consumers who are holding outstanding gift cards issued by that retailer just another class of creditor? Does the retailer’s bankruptcy mean you have to stand in line in Bankruptcy Court behind the retailer’s suppliers and bankers in order to redeem your birthday present from Aunt Mildred?

          New research by Mercator Advisory Group examines this issue by reviewing four cases of retailer bankruptcy. In a report called Retailer Bankruptcies: Are Gift Card Holders Just Another Class of Creditors.

          This is an important piece of work, given the prominence of these cards in the payments ecosphere and their relatively low rate of redemption. There are a lot of unused gift cards lying around in places like my desk drawer.

          According to Mercator, the Report covers cases with differing results for gift cardholders. It examines inconsistencies in bankruptcy court rulings as well as reasons why honoring gift cards in a liquidation is good business practice.

          “Gift card issuers should consider the value of their gift cart programs in the best and worst case scenarios and plan ahead to maximize that value for their card holders and their companies “ says Ben Jackson, director of Mercator Advisory Group’s Prepaid Advisory Service.

          For more information on Mercator Advisory Group or their research into gift card liabilities visit them at mercatoradvisorygroup.com, or follow them on Twitter @MercatorAdvisor.

          Mercator Advisory Group is an independent research and advisory firm exclusively focused on the payments and banking industries.
          12:34 PM
          by , in
          Forcing Small Business to Be Good Corporate Citizens

          The City Council of Los Angeles recently voted 15-0 to explore the feasibility of compelling farmers markets in the city to accept food stamp EBT cards as a form of payment.

          This would require all farmers markets to purchase a debit/credit card terminal in order to read the EBT cards as well as adopting a cumbersome paper process in order to be paid for their EBT transactions.

          Council will enforce its will in this matter by refusing to certify any markets that fail to accept food stamp EBT cards.

          Supporters of the measure believe that the markets should be able to get the electronic terminals at no cost from the state. Venders at each marker would all share one terminal.

          The purpose behind Council’s action is to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the city’s urban neighborhoods that lack easy access to major supermarkets.

          Instead of burdening small businesses already in these neighborhoods, it might be more productive in the long run to correct the conditions that are preventing supermarkets from locating in these areas.
          6:58 AM

          Issue Facing the Ebt Industry in 2016

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          Issue Facing the EBT Industry in 2016
           In November it was my pleasure to moderate a discussion at the EBT-The Next Generation conference about the biggest issues facing the EBT industry.

          I worked with a panel of federal officials and processing companies including Xerox State Government Services and Fidelity Information Services to examine potential issues.

          In the end we settled on 3 issues as the most pressing.

          They were: Meeting the 2020 Congressional mandate for converting all state, territorial and tribal WIC benefit programs to EBT, Improving the RFP process by which state EBT programs select their processors, and how to deal with the effects of a government shutdown on EBT nutrition programs should one occur in 2016.

          The 2020 WIC EBT Mandate
          Meeting the 2020 WIC EBT Congressional mandate involves doing a mass conversion of state WIC programs from their current paper voucher payments in a short period of time, with a limited number of companies qualified to design, build and operate EBT systems. While the state conversions have already begun, the velocity of the switch from paper to plastic have to accelerate in order to meet Congress’s mandate of nationwide WIC EBT by 2020.

          The EBT industry is anticipating a traffic jam as multiple states simultaneous release RFPs for qualified processors. Federal officials advise state EBT managers when conducting a procurement for a WIC EBT processor to do the following:
          •    Signal the marketplace in advance with a notice of pending procurement.
          •    Keep the RFP open as long as allowed by state law.
          •    Grant bidders requests for extensions to the bidding periods, if possible.
          •    Be flexible on the exact date when you want conversion to EBT to occur.

          The RFP Process


          Each state is responsible for acquiring through a competitive bidding process its own EBT systems for the distribution of nutrition benefits. The federal government manages the overall nutrition programs, and sets the technical requirements for EBT systems to assure uniformity and smooth operation. The feds also pay 100% of the cost of the benefits and 50% of the states’ administrative costs for benefit distribution, including EBT. 

          It is also worth noting that because EBT Systems are procured directly by the states there is no overall authority controlling the release of RFPs. This can result in too many RFPs out for bid at any one time. The results of this condition can include less accurate RFP responses, upward price pressure, and lack of bidder interest in smaller projects that hit the market at the same time as larger states. Smaller projects have fewer transactions over which to spread the considerable fixed costs of EBT contracts, and are less desirable to processors than larger projects.

          The RFP process gives states the chance to update their EBT platforms by adding things like mobile apps or data warehousing. The RFP process also gives the states the chance to lower cost by eliminating expensive requirements, which are no longer needed. Such requirements may include staffing, custom reporting, or unnecessarily high mandated service levels that exceed the requirements of the commercial electronic-payments industry.

          Possibility of a Government Shutdown

          The third area of concern was how to deal with the effects of a government shutdown on nutrition programs, if a shutdown were to occur. 

          EBT processors expressed the opinion that in the event of a shutdown it would be critical for representatives of the Food and Nutrition Service to share any information they have on the shutdown with the transaction processors.  FNS is the branch of the Agriculture Department, which administers the Food Stamp Program and WIC on the Federal level. 
             
          Another suggestion was to create a task force to define lines of responsibility in the event of a shutdown.