FDIC Consumer News - Fall 2017
Enhanced FDIC Tool Helps Consumers Identify Unfamiliar Banks and Websites
It's not unusual to see an email or an advertisement that promises attractive interest rates for savings accounts or certificates of deposit. Often it's about a neighborhood bank or another bank with which you are familiar. Sometimes, however, you don't recognize the name of the institution, but the opportunity seems too good to pass up. Or maybe the name sounds familiar, but you want more information. What do you do next?
We recommend that you go to the FDIC's newly updated BankFind database. For years, consumers have used this popular search tool to obtain office locations, financial data and other information about individual insured banks. Now, significant enhancements to BankFind can help people learn if an insured bank may have certain branches or a website doing business using a "trade name" that is different from the bank's official name, often for marketing purposes. This additional information is more easily available to the public because the FDIC now requires all insured banks to submit details quarterly about the trade names and web addresses they use to solicit deposits from consumers.
BankFind is easy to use. To confirm a bank's official name, enter the name of the bank as you know it in the block entitled "Bank Name," click the "Search" button, and wait for your results. To search websites, enter the basic name for the website in the block labeled "Bank URL." You do not need to enter "www," ".com." or similar parts of the website name. Click the "Search" button and await the results.
How can BankFind help answer consumer questions? Here are a few examples.
- Are all my deposits insured? "When a bank fails, consumers' deposits at that bank, regardless of whether the branches are using the official name of the bank or a trade name, will be added together and insured up to the insurance limit," said Martin Becker, chief of the FDIC Deposit Insurance Section. "Therefore, in addition to knowing whether a trade name is associated with an FDIC-insured bank, BankFind can help consumers make sure that their deposits are within the FDIC's insurance limits by verifying whether the deposits are being made into separately insured banks or into a single insured bank that is using more than one name to do business with the public."
Let's say in a hypothetical situation that a bank called Bank A acquires Bank B. Since Bank B has a good reputation in the area it serves, Bank A decides to continue to use Bank B as a trade name for all of the newly acquired branches. If a consumer enters the name Bank B into a BankFind search, the information will confirm that Bank B is now a trade name of Bank A and is no longer listed as a separately insured institution.
- Is this website connected to an FDIC-insured bank? Most FDIC-insured institutions that offer online banking services have websites with titles that are similar to the bank's name. However, that's not always the case.
Let's say you are considering a deposit at a website called www.GreatAmazingBank.com, and there is no bank mentioned on the site. You can now use BankFind to determine if there is an FDIC-insured bank connected to this website. BankFind will provide you with the name of the bank that owns the website, if applicable, along with other pertinent information regarding that bank.
"This should help consumers avoid being tricked by fake bank sites designed to get consumers to reveal personally identifiable information or possibly even send funds to a fake bank that will then steal those funds," said Calvin Troup, an FDIC senior consumer affairs specialist.
- If it's not in BankFind, does that mean the website or the promotion isn't legitimate? "It's possible you may be looking at an illegitimate website. It's also possible that the website is connected to a mutual fund or some other legitimate financial organization," said Troup. "BankFind will not have any information on a site unless it is affiliated with an FDIC-insured depository institution. Consumers should thoroughly investigate who they would be making an investment with prior to sending any money, since the funds will not be FDIC-insured."
Note: If you cannot find the information you need in BankFind or you have questions about what does turn up in a search, call the FDIC at 1-877-275-3342 and select option 1 to be connected to one of our deposit insurance specialists.
"An entity that is not listed in BankFind could be a newly insured bank that is not yet in our database, but we know that it does exist, and we can confirm that existence to the consumer. Or, it could be a fraudulent website, which the FDIC needs to know about and the consumer needs to avoid," explained Troup. "By calling the FDIC, we can confirm or research information that consumers need to know before they send money and open any new accounts."