FDIC warns of bank scams amid coronavirus pandemic

Cash withdrawal in dollars from an ATM.
The FDIC is concerned people will think that banks aren't reliable places for money due to some operating with different hours and social distancing practices in place. (Getty)

The FDIC issued an unusual message on Wednesday, reassuring consumers that "insured bank deposits are safe" and warning people of scams using the government agency’s name.

“In light of recent developments related to the coronavirus, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is reminding Americans that FDIC-insured banks remain the safest place to keep their money,” the agency wrote in a press release.

The agency noted that “during these unprecedented times consumers may receive false information regarding the security of their deposits or their ability to access cash.”

“The FDIC does not [bolding theirs] send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information,” it wrote. “The agency will never contact people asking for personal details, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, Social Security numbers, or passwords.”

Already there have been reports that some customers looking to take a lot of cash out from the ATM had hit a bank’s daily withdrawal limit, as well as banks taking steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus. These restrictions exist because banks keep a limited amount of physical cash on hand, and a bank run would exhaust the supply.

While the FDIC noted that some banks have been enacting adjusted hours, social distancing practices and even some branch closures, following CDC guidelines, customer deposits were very much safe.

(Yahoo Finance)
(Yahoo Finance)

“Since 1933, no depositor has ever lost a penny of FDIC-insured funds,” the agency said, noting that each account is insured up to $250,000. “Banks continue to offer ATM, mobile, or online banking services, and many continue to provide services via drive-through windows.”

The social distancing tactics of banks, which present challenges, are unprecedented and could add to the problem and make it easier to believe a scammer, who might say that the required password sharing is also unprecedented.

The FDIC reiterates that consumers might be contacted by people who claim to be agents of a financial institution, using a variety of communication channels.

“Scammers might also ask for personal information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other details that can be used to commit fraud or sell a person's identity,” the FDIC wrote. “Consumers should not provide this information.”

If someone is unsure as to whether they’re interacting with a scammer, they should hang up or stop communicating, and call the financial institution via a published number on a website to confirm.The agency pointed account holders to itsElectronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) tool that confirms their coverage or coverage on accounts they’re considering.


Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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