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Hurricane Katrina - Information for Consumers and Bankers in the Affected Areas
Frequently Asked Questions for Bank Customers in Areas Affected by Hurricane Katrina
Access to Money
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. ATM fees are piling up, why aren't the banks waiving these fees?
A. Please contact your banks and explain your situation. The regulators are strongly encouraging banks to waive these fees for those hardest hit by the disaster.
Q. If I have home owners insurance, do I qualify for a FEMA Assistance Card?
A. FEMA Assistance Cards will be issued without consideration of insurance. However, future aid payments may take insurance into consideration when determining the aid amount. Please contact FEMA for more information on its Debit Card Assistance Program.
Q: I received my debit card from FEMA, but I am not sure where I can use it or exactly what it is?
Once the registration process is complete, individuals without electronic funds transfer (EFT) will receive their card with a personal identification number (PIN) and the funds will be loaded onto the card within 24 hours, allowing the debit cards to be used at any automated cash machine (ATM), or at any location accepting bank cards with the MasterCard logo. Those with EFT capabilities do not have to wait 24 hours, as their funds will transfer quickly.
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)
A. Refer the caller to the NCUA hurricane number, 1-800-827-6282. You may also go to a bank and have money wired to the relative.
Q. How can I contact the NCUA for more information?
A. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has set up telephone and e-mail hotlines for this crisis. Special telephone numbers and email addresses have been established for each state affected by Hurricane Katrina. The hotline can provide information about the operating status of an affected credit union and direct you to a credit union service center near your current physical location.
Q. I would like to wire money to a relative or friend affected by Hurricane Katrina 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 Bank Find. 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. Hurricane Katrina 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. I am no longer working due to the storm and don't have the income to live on and meet my payments. If I miss some loan payments, how will this affect my credit? Will I be charged late fees?
A. Regulators are telling banks to be understanding during this time of crisis. We have asked banks to work with customers hit hardest by the hurricane. Among what we are encouraging banks to do is to allow some loan payments to be skipped with out it counting against credit histories, extend the terms of loans, and to restructure loans to take into account new sets of circumstances. Before skipping payments or changing the terms of the loan, contact your bank. FDIC is encouraging banks to be flexible in this time of crisis, including fees.
Q. I need longer term financing until insurance checks come in and I can find another job, will banks help?
A. We understand that not all banks provide short-term, unsecured loans, but regulators have encouraged banks to consider making loans on a short-term basis to help consumers. We have promised banks waivers of certain rules governing this area.
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 banks 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.
SSA officials also indicated that they were not aware of any fraud problems relating to third-party drafts or checks in previous weather-related disasters. Information from the Social Security Administration is available at: http://www.ssa.gov/emergency/.
Also, the United States Postal Service has issued a press release on the distribution of SSA checks that may be beneficial:
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. The FDIC is providing a link to a list of insurance companies that have help lines up for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
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 destroyed, 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 closed 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 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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