California Regulators Order Coceptive (Fake) Credit Union to Shut Down
Consumers who have had contact with Coceptive Credit Union should beware, all evidence suggests the organization is not an actual credit union and is breaking numerous laws by operating as a credit union in California. The organization calling themselves Coceptive Credit Union has been ordered by the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) to stop doing business in California and to stop using the term "Credit Union."
An attempt to reach Coceptive for comment was unsuccessful, with the phone number listed on their website being a disconnected number.
It appears Coceptive is, at the very least, fraudulently engaging with consumers to provide loans. If you or anyone you know is a customer of Coceptive, you should call the DBO's Consumer Services Office at (916) 327-7585. California is also asking anyone who has had any contact with the organization to call the same number
Not a Credit Union
Despite calling themselves a credit union, Coceptive is not licensed by California as a credit union. A search of the National Credit Union Administration website also shows the organization is not registered under the Coceptive name with Federal Government agency which regulates credit unions. And the organization is not a member of the California Credit Union League.
The organization has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles and also offers loans through their website. Despite the prestigious downtown addresses, the Coceptive website does not look like a legitimate financial institution website. There is no account login option for web banking, no information on their interest rates (which is required by law), and a lack of the legal disclosure documents required by financial services firms.
Protecting Yourself - How to Research a Financial Institution
Before engaging with a financial institution, research whether the financial institution has a good track record, and whether it is even a legitimate organization. The federal and state governments regulate banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and financial advisers. These same regulators publish company disclosure documents and disciplinary issues on their websites. All reputable financial services companies will have their company registered in regulators' databases.
While anyone can create a compelling fake website, it would be extremely difficult to create a fake regulatory document on a government regulator's website. If the company does not appear on the regulators' website, you should assume they are a scam and stay away.
How to research a bank/credit union
Banks and credit unions are regulated by both the federal and the state government. Start by checking the federal regulators to determine if they are actually a bank or credit union. All banks will be regulated by the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
FDIC Research Site: https://research.fdic.gov/bankfind/
NCUA Research Site: https://mapping.ncua.gov/ResearchCreditUnion.aspx
The next place to go is your state government's website to see if the institution is registered to do business in your state. In California, they are regulated by the Division of Financial Institutions, which also regulates money transmitters, trust companies, student loan servicers, and a host of other financial institutions.
Other state regulators may be called by a different name such as the Department of Business Oversight. A simple search of the state website for bank regulator or credit union regulator should provide the proper state regulator.
How to Research a Financial Adviser
Financial advisers come in three forms; registered investment advisers, stock brokers, insurance agents. registered investment advisers and stock brokers are regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). They are also regulated by the states in which they operate.
The SEC and FINRA have created a search tool called BrokerCheck, which allows you to easily research If a financial adviser is not listed on BrokerCheck, then they are either an insurance agent or are not licensed and should be avoided. (They would already be breaking the law by offering advice on investments without a license)
FINRA BrokerCheck: https://brokercheck.finra.org/
How to Research an Insurance Company/Agent
Insurance companies and agents are regulated by the individual states, and not by the federal government. Each state government has set up their own Insurance Commissioner to regulate insurance products, although they coordinate efforts through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
Find your state insurance commissioner on the state government website and research the insurance agent and company. If either an insurance agent or company is not listed, they are breaking the law by offering insurance in the state without being licensed.
List of State Insurance Commissioners: http://www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm
How to Research a CPA/Tax Preparer
Tax preparers are registered with the IRS as either Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Enrolled Agents, or Tax Attorneys. The IRS keeps a directory of tax preparers, but does not keep up to date records of whether the person has lost their state licenses to practice. As a result, you should check the appropriate state regulatory agency.
CPAs are regulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA has created a search tool for verifying whether a CPA's license is current and valid.
AICPA Verification Tool: https://www.aicpa.org/forthepublic/findacpa/findacpa.html
Accountants & CPAs: State Board of Accountancy (different website for each state)
Tax Attorneys: State Bar (different website for each state)
AICPA Search Tool:
IRS Tax Preparer Directory: https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
(not reliable for updated information)