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Important Update: Changes in FDIC Deposit Insurance Coverage

The FDIC deposit insurance rules have undergone a series of changes starting in the fall of 2008. As a result, certain previously published information related to FDIC insurance coverage may not reflect the current rules. For details about the changes, visit Changes in FDIC Deposit Insurance Coverage. For more information about FDIC insurance, go to www.fdic.gov/deposit/deposits/index.html or call toll-free 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342). For the hearing-impaired, the number is 1-800-925-4618.

Winter 2005/2006

Consumer Alert: Beware of Disaster-Related Financial Scams

Disasters such as the tsunami in 2004 and the hurricanes in 2005 can bring out the best in some people and the worst in others, including fraud artists.

"Criminals may take advantage of a bad situation by preying on peoples' fears, sympathy and desire to help others who have suffered disastrous hardships," said Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. "For example, following catastrophic events we usually see a spike in reports of fake Web sites and fraudulent phone calls or e-mails claiming to be from legitimate charitable organizations that, in reality, may be criminals pocketing donations that were intended to go to disaster victims."

Other rip-off artists, according to a warning from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), descend on damaged areas and offer to repair or restore homes but "overcharge, perform shoddy work or skip town without finishing your job."

You can avoid becoming a victim by taking these precautions:

Don't give cash. Use either a check or a credit card, so that you have some consumer protection, such as placing a hold on a check or disputing the transaction with the credit card company.

Protect your personal and financial information. Never divulge bank or credit card numbers or other personal information in response to an unsolicited call, e-mail, fax or knock at the door, no matter how official or legitimate the request may appear to be.

Give only to charities that you know or you have researched thoroughly. Resources include your state government office that regulates charities (usually part of the Attorney General's office or check the Web site of the National Association of State Charity Officials at www.nasconet.org/agencies), the IRS list of charities that are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations (www.irs.gov/charities/article/) and the Better Business Bureau, which maintains reports on national and local charities (in your phone book or online at www.give.org).

Take special precautions when considering an online donation. Go directly to a charity's Web site by independently confirming the correct Internet address. Don't follow a link from one Web site to another because the link may be to a fake Web site operated by scam artists, even though it may look identical to the real Web site. Also, Benardo warned, "sometimes those links enable criminals to monitor your computer for credit card numbers and passwords that they can use to drain your accounts."

Check out any unsolicited offers of repairs or other products or services for disaster victims. For example, the FTC says to deal only with licensed and insured home-repair contractors, get recommendations from people you know and trust, and check with the local Better Business Bureau for any record of complaints. Also get prices and other key details in writing and take your time before signing a contract.

Remember the red flags of a fraud. Trust your judgment if something just doesn't seem right or makes you feel uncomfortable. Here are examples of situations in which your best response may be to walk away or hang up:

  • You're being pressured to act quickly, perhaps to send money or provide personal information on the spot.
  • You're told you already agreed to donate or pay money, and you don't remember doing so.
  • An organization uses a name or Web site that sounds or looks like that of a well-known, respected charity, but on closer examination it's not the same.
  • Someone claims to be a disaster victim and asks for your help in placing funds in an overseas bank account.

Report suspected frauds. Go to www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com/complaint.html, a Web site co-sponsored by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to file a complaint. You can also contact the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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Last Updated 02/02/2006 communications@fdic.gov