Treasurer’s I-Cash Program Partners with IRMA

          OFFICE OF ILLINOIS STATE TREASURER_               

 State Treasurer       MICHAEL W. FRERICHS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:          October 19, 2015

 CONTACT:
Paris Ervin  217.524.5749;     Greg Rivara  312.814.1901

 

Treasurer Frerichs Seeks to Return $4.2 Million in Unclaimed Money to Retailers

Treasurer’s I-Cash Program Partners with Illinois Retail Merchants Association to Help Businesses Claim Their Money

 

SPRINGFIELD Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs today announced a partnership between the state’s I-Cash program and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) to facilitate the return of recovered cash and assets to retailers.

The Illinois Treasurer’s Office has identified nearly 1,000 companies with $25,000 or more in unclaimed property, totaling more than $80 million. Among these, IRMA has helped identify 63 companies from the retail industry with nearly $4.2 million in property to claim. Through this new partnership, the Illinois Treasurer’s I-Cash program is teaming with IRMA to encourage retailers to initiate their claims and assist in the process.

As part of the Illinois Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division, the I-Cash program connects state residents and businesses with their unclaimed money and other assets. The Unclaimed Property Division recovers hundreds of thousands of properties each year from government agencies, banks, insurers, utilities, and other companies across the country that have been unable to return the properties to their rightful owners. The I-Cash program then works to notify owners and reunite them with their money and other property. Last year, the I-Cash program reunited individuals, businesses and others with $163 million in cash and property.

“Working with IRMA will help us return money and property to their rightful owners faster,” Frerichs said. “Illinois retailers and other businesses have tens of millions of dollars waiting to be claimed, and we’re eager to get this money back into their hands, and back into the economy.”

“This is the first time we have partnered with the Treasurer’s office, and we look forward to helping our Illinois retailers reunite with money or property they did not realize they had waiting to be claimed through I-Cash,” said Rob Karr, President and CEO of IRMA. “We are happy to be working with Treasurer Frerichs on this effort.”

Through the I-Cash program, the Illinois Treasurer has returned more than $1.7 million in cash and property to Illinois businesses in the first half of this year, but there still are tens of millions more waiting to be recovered by Illinois companies.

Some examples of unclaimed property currently held by the Treasurer’s office include:

    • Money from inactive savings and checking accounts
    • Unpaid wages or commissions
    • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds
    • Money orders and bill over-payments
    • Paid-up life insurance policies
    • Safe deposit box contents

 

Businesses, non-profit organizations and residents can search for and claim recovered property through I-Cash by visiting www.IllinoisTreasurer.gov or calling 217-785-6998. Because hundreds of thousands of new properties are reported to the State Treasurer each year, residents should check I-Cash every six months.

About the Illinois Treasurer

The Illinois Treasurer is the state’s Chief Investment Officer and Frerichs is a Certified Public Finance Officer. He protects consumers by encouraging savings plans for college or trade school, increasing financial education among all ages, and removing barriers to a secured retirement. As the state’s Chief Investment Officer, he actively manages approximately $25 billion. Currently, the portfolio includes $13 billion in state funds, $7 billion in college savings plans and $5 billion on behalf of local and state governments. The investment approach is cautious to ensure the preservation of capital and returns $28 to the state for every $1 spent in operations. The Treasurer’s office predates Illinois’ incorporation in 1818. Voters in 1848 chose to make it an elected office.

 About the Illinois Retail Merchants Association

IRMA serves as the voice of retailing community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the state, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.

 

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IRMA: Your New “Chip and Sign” Credit Cards Are Not Secure Enough

IRMA letterhead logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
September 24, 2015 Catie Sheehan, 217-220-1717
catie@macstrategiesgroup.com

PRESS RELEASE

SPRINGFIELD –Many Illinoisans have already received new replacement credit and debit cards in the mail—each with a computer chip to go along with the new credit card rules imposed by financial institutions that will be implemented on October 1, 2015. Banks and credit card issuers say these chips offer enhanced protection for consumers against fraud. “IRMA believes these chip-and-sign credit cards do not do enough to protect consumers from fraud,” said IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr. “There’s a better method out there that utilizes the chip technology, and we should be using that.”

Starting October 1, 2015, there will be major changes in how credit card transactions are processed and who will be responsible for fraud costs. “Illinois retailers are gearing up their stores to be ready to take cards with chips in them; if they don’t make the upgrades for chip technology by October 1, retailers will be responsible for covering fraud instead of the banks or credit card issuer,” said Karr. Prior to this change, banks have been responsible for a share of fraud losses when a counterfeit card is used, and retailers are on the hook when the person using the card is not the authentic cardholder. Consumers will notice the change when they use their credit cards in the way they insert them in the payment terminals instead of swiping and signing.

“We applaud banks for taking a first step, but consumers need to be aware these new credit cards are not significantly safer than their old ones,” said Karr. “Unfortunately, this means consumers are still at risk. Banks took a baby step here. Retailers are investing billions in point-of-sales systems so we are ready to accept the safest possible cards as soon as banks decide to fully protect consumers.”

Instead, IRMA would like to see the “chip-and-PIN” technology used with credit and debit cards to effectively cut down on fraud for consumers, retailers and banks. Karr says retailers believe the shift in liability is unfair because the chip-and-sign cards reduce banks’ limited exposure to fraud but don’t significantly reduce fraud for retailers or consumers.

Chip-and-signature cards require a signature like the former system, but therefore, face the same issues as the old legacy cards such as forgery and replication. “According to the Federal Reserve, chip-and-PIN cards are 700 percent more secure than chip-and-signature,” said Karr. “Despite these concerns, card issuers and financial institutions have chosen the less secure chip-and-signature cards that continue to put U.S. consumers at risk.”

Chip-and-PIN cards credit/debit cards have a chip just like the chip-and-sign cards, but the chip-and-PIN cards hold the cardholders’ personal identification number (PIN) data. To use a card, a customer must enter a PIN number instead of a signature to complete a transaction. Each transaction generates a new code, making the information difficult to intercept and cards almost impossible to counterfeit. Requiring a PIN number for every transaction eliminates fraud based on forgery and renders a stolen credit card useless to a thief who attempts to make a purchase at a local store.

Karr says while the United States is shifting to the unsecure payment method of chip-and-sign, every other G-20 nation has replaced the magnetic stripe cards with chip-and-PIN cards within the last 12 years. Chip-and-PIN technology was first implemented in the United Kingdom in 2003. After it was introduced, credit card fraud in the U.K. plummeted 67 percent within six years due to banks and merchants using chip-and-PIN cards. Since it has been more difficult to compromise the chip-and-PIN cards, criminal elements have focused their attention on the only developed country in the world that does not use chip-and-PIN technology. During this same period as fraud decreased in Europe, data breaches that included credit card fraud in the U.S. increased. In 2012, U.S. consumers accounted for 47.3 percent of worldwide payment card fraud losses. “We have a real problem here,” said Karr.

The retail industry isn’t the only industry that recognizes that a shift to a chip-and-PIN system is imperative to consumer safety. The U.S. federal government has implemented chip-and-PIN for all new and existing government credit and debit cards. As the government and retailers invest in new and more secure terminals at registers, so too must the card issuers and financial institutions provide more safety for consumers.

Card issuers and financial institutions have made conflicting statements as to why they are issuing more fraud-prone credit cards to their American customers. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a senior executive at MasterCard said many consumers find it difficult to remember a four-digit PIN number. Anecdotally, this argument seems hard to swallow given that millions of Americans regularly enter a four-digit code to use an ATM machine or to unlock their smartphone.

“Chip-and-signature cards do not go far enough to protect American consumers and will continue to make the U.S. an attractive target for criminals who can no longer be successful in compromising credit card data elsewhere,” said Karr. “Card issuers and financial institutions need to join the U.S. government and retailers in adopting the chip-and-PIN model to better protect U.S. consumers.”

 

About the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)

One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the state, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.

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PRESS RELEASE

IRMA SOCIAL MEDIA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  September 9, 2015

CONTACT: 

Catie Sheehan, 217-220-1717; catie@macstrategiesgroup.com

PRESS RELEASE

 

Illinois Retailers Testify About Unfair Statute That Could Cost Them Their Business

SPRINGFIELD—Members of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) testified before the Illinois Senate Revenue Committee about issues retailers unfairly face with qui tam lawsuits in this state, specifically related to application of sales taxes on shipping and handling charges at the point-of-sale.

Qui tam lawsuits are civil suits filed against a person or company who is believed to have committed fraud against the government. Qui tam lawsuits are filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, which gives whistleblowers a reward or a percentage of what’s recovered if the qui tam lawsuit he/she files recovers money for the government. The False Claims Act was not intended to apply to tax transactions. In fact, it was borrowed from the federal government and income tax is specifically excluded from its provisions. Because the federal government does not have a sales tax, no one thought to exempt sales tax as well.

Both Illinois retailers who testified at the hearing were sued by the same firm, Schad, Diamond & Shedden, P.C. This firm has filed hundreds of qui tam lawsuits in the same fashion.

Bob Jones, president of American Sale based in Tinley Park, also testified at the committee hearing because his company was involved in a qui tam case. “The so called ‘whistleblower’ in my case was an attorney who through his knowledge of a poorly written law set out to essentially extort retailers for a very minor twist in how the law was written,” says Jones.  “As a business owner and not an attorney, I am sure there are hundreds of possibilities where an unscrupulous attorney can take these twists or confusingly written laws and use them to make millions of dollars.  I think the spirit of the law was to provide incentives for people who had knowledge of some intentional illegal act in a business but were afraid to say anything. It was not intended to punish employers for following the interpretations and regulations established by the state of Illinois. And it certainly was not intended not to empower opportunistic law firms seeking to find a sweet spot of financial leverage through intimidation.”

Illinois retailers are following the law as applied and interpreted by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). These lawsuits attempt to coerce money from law-abiding retailers who must choose to either settle or spend months and years defending themselves against this spurious practice. For example, Jeff Pape, president of WrestlingGear.Com, Ltd. based in Elmhurst, ended up settling for $25,000 rather than spending tens of thousands more than that to defend himself against this lawsuit. “I’m a small businessman as are many of the people targeted by this law firm,” says Pape. “We have to choose between running our businesses, staying open, keeping our employees paid, generating sales tax revenue for the state and local units of government, or defending ourselves against these lawsuits and likely losing our businesses– all this as a ‘reward’ for following state regulations and interpretations. No employer should be at risk for following state regulations and interpretations.”

IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr says interpretation of state tax law and regulations issued by IDOR should be the exclusive purview of IDOR. “We hope Illinois lawmakers will consider the unfairness of the current statute and be inspired by the testimony today to change the laws so that people will stop taking advantage this situation. Illinois employers face enough challenges. This should be an easy fix,” says Karr. “This current law hurts retailers to the point that it could easily put them out of business.”

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Retailers Disappointed as Lawmakers Pass Job-Killing Minimum Wage Hike

                                                                                                                      CONTACT:
Catie Sheehan, 217-220-1717
catie@macstrategiesgroup.com

Rob Karr testifying before Senate Executive Committee against the minimum wage.
Rob Karr, President & CEO, testifying before the Senate Executive Committee against the minimum wage.

Retailers Disappointed as Lawmakers Pass Job-Killing Minimum Wage Hike

Senate passes bill that will raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $11

SPRINGFIELD—February 5, 2015— Despite Illinois having a significantly higher minimum wage than all of its neighboring states, SB 11, introduced by Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 35-18, with one member voting present. The legislation will increase Illinois’ minimum wage to $11.00 per hour. With a minimum wage $1.00 higher than the federal minimum wage and $0.60-$1.00 higher than all neighboring states, Illinois businesses will be forced to reconsider staying in the state.

“The goal of the proponents is laudable, but we know that raising incomes begins with sound public policy decisions that are focused on creating jobs and encouraging employers to stay, expand and locate in Illinois,” said Rob Karr, president/CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “If we raise the minimum wage, increasing employers largest cost line-item by 25 percent, employers are going to be forced to make cuts, which will start with jobs. No employer’s sales are increasing by 25 percent, particularly in the retail sector, so they have no other choice. This does nothing to change Illinois’ economic reputation, and it further economically disenfranchises Illinois citizens – particularly those who are low-skilled and inexperienced.”

SB11 seeks to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 beginning July 1, 2015, and increase it by $0.50 each July until July 1, 2019. Across the country, cities and states with an increased minimum wage are feeling the effects. In San Francisco, a long standing bookstore and advocate for the minimum wage increase when San Francisco adopted it several years ago, is closing after realizing the increased minimum wage made continuing operations impossible. During a time when the economic recovery in Illinois is slow, the state simply cannot afford to run businesses across the border or force them out of business altogether.

Facts about the minimum wage increase:

  • Illinois’ minimum wage is already highest in the Midwest. The Illinois minimum wage is currently $0.60 – $1.00 per hour higher than all of our neighboring states. A minimum wage increase will only put Illinois in an even higher economic disadvantage.
  • Raising the minimum wage will continue to keep people, especially teens, out of jobs. The number of teens with a job in Illinois has fallen consistently over the last 10 years leaving only about a quarter employed now. Increasing the minimum wage will only keep teens further out of jobs.
  • Minimum wage salaries are a floor, not a ceiling. The National Restaurant Association notes, “9 out of 10 salaried restaurant workers, including owners and managers, started as hourly workers.”
  • Employers are already bracing for the uncertain effects of federal health care implementation in Illinois.  To comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, analysts estimate approximately $3,000 in extra costs per employee. Adding a minimum wage increase on top of the extra healthcare costs will kill Illinois employers.

“The fact of the matter is, increasing the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour is a job-killing proposal that will drive businesses out of the state taking much needed jobs with them,” said Karr. “We need to work together to pass legislation that seeks to strengthen our economy and keep jobs in our state, especially for those who need them the most.”

About The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)

One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957,IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the state, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.


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