FDIC warns of scams saying banks in trouble from outbreak

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NEW YORK (AP) — One of the nation’s bank regulators is urging Americans not to withdraw large sums of cash and to beware of fraudsters claiming that banks are limiting customers’ access to their money.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued a statement Wednesday warning about an increase in scams trying to sow distrust in the U.S. financial system while the nation is dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many banks have shortened branch hours or are pushing customers to use online banking exclusively to avoid transmission of the virus. This has led more Americans to pull cash out of ATMs in some communities. Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp, said the bank had ordered 30% more cash to keep up with withdrawals.

The FDIC says it has seen an uptick in calls, text messages, letters and emails from scammers pretending to be FDIC employees, using names of people who actually work at the FDIC. The scammers falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits. The scammers, along with trying to sow distrust, are also after bank account and other personal information.

The FDIC insures every depositor up to $250,000 in each bank where they hold deposits. No depositor has lost money since the FDIC was created in 1933, in response to the large number of bank failures and bank runs in the early years of the Great Depression.

“Customers’ deposits remain safe in these banks, as does customer access to their funds. Banks continue to offer ATM, mobile, or online banking services, and many continue to provide services via drive-through window,” the FDIC said in a statement.

While the stock market has fallen sharply and the U.S. economy could potentially fall into a recession, banks are not at risk of failure. The FDIC’s “troubled bank” list is at an all-time low, and bank capital at every bank is higher than it was prior to the Great Recession.

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