FDIC Consumer News
More Answers to Common Questions
Some things to know about the FDIC's online deposit insurance calculator, debt collectors and prepaid debit cards
Consumers often seek help from the FDIC with questions relating to their bank accounts. That's why FDIC Consumer News occasionally features questions and answers that readers may find useful. Check out the latest collection below.
Do I have to provide personal information if I use the FDIC's online deposit insurance calculator to find out if my deposits are fully covered?
"No. 'EDIE,' the FDIC's Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator, does not need personal identification information such as your actual name, Social Security number or account number," said Martin Becker, Chief of the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Section. "EDIE is a site that can help you confidentially calculate your deposit insurance coverage."
For an accurate analysis of your insurance coverage, though, you will need to list account owners or beneficiaries, but you can type in aliases like Jane Doe or Child #1. Also enter information such as the type of account and the dollar amount to reflect your bank accounts correctly. You can use hypothetical amounts if you want to explore opening new accounts or adding to existing account balances. And when you're done, EDIE doesn't store any of the details you key in, nor can it track users.
To use EDIE, go to www.fdic.gov/edie. You can speak with an expert to discuss your FDIC deposit insurance coverage by calling 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342).
What should I do if I have a problem with a bill collector, and what are my rights as a consumer?
Complaints about debt collectors are common, with allegations ranging from harassment to fraud (such as when criminals use fake documentation to trick victims into paying bills that don't exist).
Even if you had not paid your bills as required, you have the right to be treated fairly under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For example, within five days after initial contact, the debt collector must provide a written notice stating who you owe money to and how much is due. And if you make a written request within 30 days of the initial contact, the debt collector cannot contact you again until they mail you proof of the debt. "Consumers can use this information to make sure that they are actually responsible for paying the money and that it is not someone else's responsibility. They also can make sure the amount owed on a legitimate debt is accurate," explained Edward Hof, an FDIC Consumer Affairs Specialist.
Also under the law, consumers have protections against violence, obscene language, repeated calls and other abuse. Without the consumer's permission or a court order, debt collectors cannot contact consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. And, if you tell a debt collector in writing that you refuse to pay, the collector can only contact you one more time – either to tell you that all communications have ended or that it will take a specific action, such as suing you to collect the debt.
To learn more, start with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (www.consumerfinance.gov or call toll free 1-855-411-2372) and/or the Federal Trade Commission (www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/dealing-debt or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP). Another valuable resource is your state Attorney General's office (http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php).
Due to security concerns, my bank put a temporary "hold" on my reloadable prepaid debit card. Can the bank do that? And what consumer protections do I have if a thief used my card?
"Yes, if the bank that issues a prepaid card suspects a security risk, in most cases it will put a hold on the use of the card, but it also can cancel the card and issue a new one," said Heather St. Germain, an FDIC Senior Consumer Affairs Specialist. "These precautions can be inconvenient for the customer, but they help limit potential fraud."
As for federal consumer protections, your liability for an unauthorized transaction varies depending on the type of card. For example, debit card users are liable for no more than $50 of fraudulent charges as long as they notify their financial institution within two business days of realizing that their card was lost or stolen. With reloadable prepaid cards, federal law treats "payroll" cards (for employer deposits of salary or government benefit payments) the same as debit cards, but currently there are no federal consumer protections limiting losses with general-purpose prepaid cards. That could be changing, though, because the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a new rule that would increase federal consumer protections for prepaid financial products. Also, industry practices may already limit your losses to some extent, so check with your card issuer.
To help protect yourself, don't divulge your prepaid card number to anyone who calls, e-mails or otherwise contacts you unexpectedly. Regularly review your account for unauthorized transactions (if you are unsure of how to do so, review the documentation that came with your card) and notify the financial institution that issued your prepaid card immediately if you see any discrepancies. Also, if your prepaid card doesn't work, contact the card provider, explain your situation, find out what happened and ask what you need to do to access your funds.
To learn more about reloadable prepaid cards, start at the CFPB Web site at www.consumerfinance.gov. If new consumer protections are adopted, we'll report on them in FDIC Consumer News. And for additional information on prepaid cards, see our Summer 2012 issue at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnsum12/paymentcards.html.