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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 2006/2007 Special Edition: Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be in Charge

5 Top Reasons People Call or Write the FDIC:

What You Can Learn from Other Consumers' Questions and Concerns

The FDIC receives hundreds of letters, e-mails and calls from consumers every day. FDIC Consumer News wants you to know the most common reasons people contact the FDIC so you can learn from their questions and concerns and take precautions that can save you time, money and headaches. In addition, we want to remind you that, if you need a little help, the FDIC can be a resource.

Here, in no special order, are the top five reasons consumers contact the FDIC.

1. Questions about FDIC insurance coverage. "Most of the calls and letters the FDIC receives from consumers – about 60 percent of them – are from people asking about their insurance coverage," said Kathleen Nagle, chief of the Deposit Insurance Section in the FDIC's Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection. "They want to know what's covered, what isn't, and how much their coverage is."

She added that a surprisingly large number of consumers have misconceptions about deposit insurance. "The biggest concern," Nagle said, "is that some depositors who believe that all their funds are insured may inadvertently have some money over the insurance limits."

For more information, see the article about how to protect yourself with FDIC insurance. Included there is a guide to FDIC resources on deposit insurance, including our toll-free Call Center. "The FDIC consumer line is a great service the FDIC provides," Nagle said. "We encourage anyone with a question about their FDIC insurance to call us."

2. General questions about banking or consumer protections. Consumers want to know, for example, if their bank is permitted to take a certain action and what their consumer rights are under the law. Before approaching the FDIC, you can learn more about your rights and responsibilities by contacting the institution directly (if you haven't done that already). Otherwise, you may call or write the FDIC or go to our Web site for more information (see For More Help or Information on Managing Your Money).

3. Questions or complaints involving specific financial institutions. Many questions or complaints involve account terms and conditions, such as fees, penalties, restrictions, and interest charges or payments.

Concerns about charges for "bounced checks" (due to insufficient funds) are common. So too are calls and letters about the costs of ATM transactions; many consumers forget or are not aware that they can be charged a fee for using an ATM that is not owned by their bank.

"When a bank changes the terms on an account, whether it is a checking account or a credit card, this also generates mail and phone calls," added Lynne Gottesburen, an FDIC Supervisory Consumer Affairs Specialist. "Consumers often don't realize that a bank can change the interest rate or the terms on an account or even close an account, as long as the change is allowed in the contract or agreement between the bank and the customer and the proper notification is given. That's why it is so important to read and understand your account agreement and correspondence sent by your financial institution."

Also, she said, don't be afraid to ask a bank representative to explain something to you when you open the account or in the months or years that follow.

Consumers also contact the FDIC to discuss a dispute over a deposit account transaction or balance. Examples include deposits that didn't get posted to their checking account as expected or fees that seem incorrect. "Read your account disclosures and monitor your account on a regular basis to make sure the transactions reflected are yours and are accurate," said Joni Creamean, an FDIC Senior Consumer Affairs Specialist. "If there is a mistake, notify your bank immediately and follow up in writing."

The FDIC also receives many calls and letters each year from people trying to track down information about old accounts and banks that have changed names or no longer exist. These inquiries often come in after an individual dies and the executor or heirs find "proof" of an old account or a receipt for a safe deposit box at an unfamiliar bank. FDIC officials say that, in most cases, the accounts were closed by the owner years ago, but sometimes there are valuable accounts or other assets that can still be claimed, usually from the unclaimed property office in the state where the owner lived or did business. You can turn to the FDIC for help or direction in these situations. Start by reading our article about lost or forgotten accounts in the Spring 2002 FDIC Consumer News at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnspr02/lost.html.

4. Billing disputes and errors, primarily involving credit cards. Sometimes something goes wrong, including bills that are incorrect or card payments that are posted late. When that happens, people contact the FDIC for help, and our response is usually to provide guidance regarding their consumer protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act. You may not be able to avoid a billing error, but it's important to closely monitor your account and report errors promptly to your financial institution to have it fix mistakes.

"To fully protect your rights under the law, consumers should write to their financial institution at the address provided for billing errors and not send their letter with their card payment, which goes to another location," said Janet Kincaid, FDIC Senior Consumer Affairs Officer. "If that doesn't resolve the dispute, we encourage folks to write the lender's primary federal regulator for additional help." (For related tips, see the article about how to complain effectively.)

5. Allegations of fraud. Con artists often prey on peoples' desires to make money quickly and to trust a friendly face or voice. A prime example is the counterfeit check fraud that the FDIC hears about in different variations practically every day. For tips on avoiding bad deals and scams that arrive by phone, letter and e-mail, see the next page.

For more information: The FDIC resources listed in this special guide can help you get up to speed on preventing and solving many different issues facing bank customers. Also take a look at back issues of FDIC Consumer News at www.fdic.gov/consumernews, including the Spring 2006 issue focusing on FDIC insurance coverage and a Fall 2006 article on costly mistakes bank customers make.

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Last Updated 1/31/2006 communications@fdic.gov