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Hurricane Gustav Recovery - Information for Consumers and Bankers in the Affected Areas
Frequently Asked Questions for Bank Customers in Areas Affected by Recent Hurricanes
Q. Is the government doing anything about the banking issues caused by Hurricane Gustav?
A. Federal and State regulators are closely monitoring the situation. We are in contact with state and national regulators to assess the day-to-day operations of the banking industry. While we can't provide financial institution-specific information, we can assure you that the United States banking industry is safe and sound.
Q. I am no longer working due to the storm and don't have the income to live on and meet my payments. What can I do?
A. The FDIC is encouraging financial institutions to work constructively with borrowers who are experiencing difficulties beyond their control because of damage caused by these disasters. Extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans or easing terms for new loans, if done in a manner consistent with sound banking practices, can contribute to the health of the community and serve the long-term interests of the lending institution. Before skipping payments or changing the terms of the loan, contact your bank.
Access to Money
Q. Merchants will not accept my checks because my bank is not operational because of the storm and they can't verify my available account balance, what should I do?
A. If a merchant cannot verify that you have an available balance they more than likely will not accept your check. Until your bank is operational again, we can only suggest that you contact one of the emergency service organizations, such as FEMA or the Red Cross, and request assistance.
Q. The local banks are not cashing my checks or letting me withdraw money from teller stations, what can I do?
A. If you do not have an account relationship with the bank, it may be concerned about whether there are sufficient funds in your bank account. Ask the bank you are dealing with to call your bank to determine your account balance. We encourage you to work with your existing bank to provide the necessary information to the bank you are currently dealing with so that you may conduct your banking transactions. However, we do recognize that you may have no other alternative but to open a new banking account in the area in which you have relocated.
Q. My direct deposit is not showing up in my account, and I need money. Is there somebody who can help me clear this up with the bank?
A. Sometimes there are delays in the processing of transactions, including direct deposits, as banks activate back up plans. The banks will process the transactions once the plans are implemented. The delays should be rectified soon.
Please talk to your bank about the problem. You can also contact the individual or company that originated the deposit to see if they have any information about the status of your deposit.
Q. If my ATM card does not work, what should I do?
A. If your ATM card will not work, it is probably because your bank's verification system is not working. You may consider other options, such as cashing a check in the area where you are located or using a credit card. You may also contact one of the emergency service organizations, such as FEMA or the Red Cross, and request assistance.
Q. My ATM card appears to work but there is no cash in the ATM machine, what can I do?
A. The normal distribution system for replenishing ATMs may have been disrupted. You may want to attempt to find another location with a functioning ATM. You may also contact one of the emergency service organizations, such as FEMA or the Red Cross, and request assistance.
Q. ATM fees are piling up, why aren't the banks waiving these fees?
A. Please contact your banks and explain your situation.
Q. I can't reach my bank by phone or internet, what should I do?
A. If your bank is located in the heavily storm damaged area and is not a part of a major regional or national institution, it may not be open for some time. You should contact one of the emergency service organizations, such as FEMA or the Red Cross, and request assistance.
Q. How can I get money to a relative who banks at a credit union with all six (6) branches closed in Alabama (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas)
A. Refer the caller to the NCUA hurricane number, 1-888-584-6847. The website address is www.ncua.gov. You may also go to a bank and have money wired to the relative.
Q. I would like to wire money to a relative or friend affected by the hurricanes or I would like to wire money from my current institution to another financial institution closer to my current location? How do I go about wiring money either to or from an institution?
A. First of all, contact the institution where you want to send to or retrieve money from and make sure they are able to accept or send wire transfers. You can find specific bank information on the FDIC's BankFind. You will need to give the following information so it is good to get it all together before contacting the bank: the bank's routing number (located in the lower left hand corner of your check or deposit slip) and either your account number or the account of the individual who is to receive the money (located in the middle of the check or deposit slip). If you cannot find a bank's routing number, go to the bank's Web page. It is usually listed there. You will also want their bank's address if you are wiring to someone else. Make sure you get a confirmation letter. If you are doing this transfer over the Internet ask them to fax or email you a confirmation so the person receiving the money has it.
Make sure you know the identification verification process at the receiving institution. Some institutions will accept incoming wires for non-customers but will require some form of proof of who you are before they release the funds. Make sure you have the identification required or explain up front what you do have and ask the bank if that is acceptable.
Be aware there are often charges for wiring money so make sure you are aware of the charges up front and while many institutions are currently waiving those fees make sure you know exactly what and if you are going to be charged. You don't want to be surprised.
Never wire money to someone unsolicited or give out your account information to an unknown party.
Q. The hurricanes forced me to evacuate without my personal IDs or financial records. How do I start to rebuild my financial records?
A. Here are some tips to help you begin the process of re-establishing your financial records:
Q. What about the contents of my safe deposit box? Does FDIC insurance cover safe deposit boxes?
A. No, deposit insurance does not cover the items contained in safe deposit boxes. Safe deposit boxes are not immune from theft, fire, flood, and loss. Most safe deposit boxes are held in the bank's vault, which are fire resistant and water resistance. If possible, contact the branch or office where your box was located to determine the condition of your box.
Q. How will I get my Social Security check?
A. Contact the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for instructions or information regarding any SSA assistance programs. To locate open offices, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213. Information is also available at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency/gustav.htm
The United States Postal Service has information at: http://www.usps.com/communications/news/serviceupdates/gustav.htm
Q. I am worried about ID Theft since my home was severely damaged during the storm or I am not sure where my belongings are at the moment.
A. If you feel ID Theft is a real concern, you may place a "fraud alert" on your credit file, which can help prevent a thief from opening new accounts or making changes to your existing accounts. Be aware that putting an alert on your account may prevent you from opening an account unless they are able to get in touch with you and positively confirm your identity and that you are applying for credit.
However, if you have reason to believe you may be a victim of ID theft, you could do several things. First, you could contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, or TransUnion at 1-800-888-4213) to place a "fraud alert" on your credit file. Second, people who think their personal information has been misused should contact the local police. They can also contact the Federal Trade Commission on the Web at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft or by phone at 877-IDTHEFT.
As always, protect your Social Security number, bank account and credit card numbers and other personal information, especially in response to unsolicited requests from strangers. Remember that fraud artists may try to take advantage of the crisis by tricking victims (or their loved ones) into divulging personal information or by stealing sensitive mail or documents from homes and offices.
Q. What happens if my bank has lost my records?
A. Be assured that banks are required to have extensive contingency plans for all types of disruptions to operations, including natural disasters. Banks have backup systems of records and other built-in duplications that are housed in safe locations so that financial records can be reconstructed and restored.
Q. How can consumers deposit or cash any insurance checks they may receive?
A. By the time emergency relief and insurance payments are received the affected institutions should be prepared to process these payments for their customers. Should a customer's primary financial institution not be ready to receive these payments it is anticipated arrangements will be made with neighboring institutions to handle these special consumer needs.
Q: I know I have flood insurance, what do I do?
A: Call your insurance company.
Q: I am not sure if I have flood insurance, what do I do?
A: Attempt to contact the company holding the mortgage on your home (that may be your bank). If that company holding your mortgage is your bank, the FDIC can provided a list of banks and phone numbers in the affected area for you to contact.
Q: I know I have flood insurance, but my bank is closed – what do I do?
A: Banks having offices in the most devastated areas are making every attempt to establish temporary facilities to service customers.
Q: I know I do not have flood insurance, is assistance available?
A: Contact FEMA.
Bank Operations/Deposit Insurance
Q. If my local bank was damaged and is closed, is my money still insured?
A. Yes, your money is still insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Deposits with a FDIC insured bank or savings institution will continue to be protected up to $100,000. However, you should keep any financial records that you have in order to help reconstruct your accounts.
Q. Will there be enough cash?
A. Be assured the Federal Reserve System has and will continue to meet the currency needs of the financial institution industry. The banking industry nationwide has more than sufficient resources to fill any shortfall.
Q. Is my bank safe? Do you believe the affected banks will survive?
A. We are not aware of any bank that has ever failed due to the impact of a natural disaster. Consumers can also rely upon the guarantees provided by the FDIC, which oversees the insurance funds that back deposits in banks and thrifts, and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which protects credit union depositors. These depositors can rest assured that deposit insurance is in full force.
Q. Who can I contact for more information?
A. The FDIC has a consumer hotline set up for this crisis. Please call 1-877-ASK-FDIC (275-3342). The hotline is operating from 8am to 10pm central time, 7 days a week.
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