Consumer Issues & Information
How can I open an account at the Federal Reserve?
The Federal Reserve Banks are not authorized to open
accounts for individuals. Only depository institutions and
certain other financial entities may open an account at a
Federal Reserve Bank.
How can I prevent "identity theft" - someone is using my
personal information to commit fraud or theft?
You should be cautious if someone tries to obtain your
name, date of birth, social security number, driver's
license number, bank account number, or credit card
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a central
web site for
information about identity theft that contains more
detailed information about how to protect yourself and
what to do if you believe you are a victim of identity
Where can I find information about leasing a vehicle?
The Federal Reserve Board's web site provides a consumer
to vehicle leasing. Under the Consumer Leasing
Act, consumers have the right to information about the
costs and terms of leasing a vehicle. The information in
the guide will help you compare lease offers and negotiate
a lease that will best fit your needs, budget, and driving
How can I spot a financial fraud or a scam?
Criminals sometimes use the name of a government agency
in an attempt to give legitimacy to fraudulent
transactions, financial instruments, investment
opportunities, and fund-raising proposals. The Federal
Reserve Bank of New York's website provides current information about frauds and
scams, as does the Treasury's Bureau of the Public Debt web
The Federal Reserve is aware of the proliferation of
these schemes but does not have any authority to
investigate or prosecute the wrongdoers involved.
scams should be reported to the
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or to the U.
S. Secret Service.
I keep receiving notices about privacy rights from banks
and credit card issuers. What do they mean, and what am I
supposed to do about them?
Federal law requires financial companies to tell you about
their policies regarding the privacy of your personal
financial information. With some exceptions, the law
limits the ability of financial companies to share your
personal financial information. To learn more about what
these notices mean and how you may want to respond to
read the Federal Reserve Board's "Privacy Choices"
Do you have any resources that would help me
teach about money in my classroom?
Visit the Federal Reserve's educational website, Fed
, for resources for educators,
students, parents, and the general public.
Is it true that I can't cash a check that is over 6 months
State laws governs many aspects of check payments
(the Uniform Commercial Code) and generally provides that
a bank may, but is not obligated to, pay an ordinary check
that is more than six months old (measured from the date
on the check). Some states enact non-uniform provisions
of the Uniform Commercial Code, so you should check your
state's law for the specific rule that applies.
What is a substitute check and what do I do if I have a problem with a substitute check?
A substitute check is a special paper copy of the front
back of an original check. The substitute check may be
slightly larger than the original check. Substitute checks
are specially formatted so they can be processed as if
were original checks. The front of a substitute check
should state: "This is a legal copy of your check. You
can use it the same way you would use the original
check." The following web page contains samples that
show what a substitute check looks like:
Not all copies of a check are substitute checks. For
example, pictures of multiple checks printed on a page
(also known as an image statement) that is returned to you
with your monthly statement are not substitute checks.
Online check images and photocopies of original checks are
not substitute checks either. You can use image statements
and other copies of checks to verify that your bank has
paid a check.
Check 21 provides a special process that allows you to
claim a refund (also known as an expedited recredit) when
you receive a substitute check from a bank and you think
there is an error because of the substitute check. For
example, you may think that you were charged twice for the
same check. You may use the special process to get a
refund of the money you lost. The amount of your refund
under the special process is limited to the amount of your
loss or the amount of the substitute check that you
received, whichever is less, plus interest on that amount
if your account earns interest. If your loss is more than
the amount of the substitute check, you may have the right
under other laws to recover additional amounts of money.
If your bank finds that your claim is valid, you should
receive your refund by the next business day after the
bank's finding. Unless your bank finds that your claim is
not valid, you should receive up to $2,500 of your refund
(plus interest if your account earns interest) within 10
business days after your bank receives your claim. You
should receive the rest of your refund (plus interest if
your account earns interest) no later than 45 days after
your bank receives your claim. If your bank finds that
your claim is not valid, it will send you a notice
explaining why. Your bank may reverse the refund
(including any interest on the refund) if it can show that
the substitute check did not cause an error in your
Can I require my bank to return my original check?
No. In general, the law does not require your bank to
return your original check. Many banks destroy original
paper checks. Other banks may store original checks for
some period of time and then destroy them. Federal
regulations ensure that you have the same legal
protections when you receive a substitute check from your
bank as you do when you receive an original check.
What do I do if I have a problem with a check payment?
If you notice a problem with a substitute check, you
contact your bank as soon as possible. In general, to use
the special refund procedure for substitute checks, you
should contact your bank no later than 40 days from the
date your bank provided the substitute check or from the
date of the statement that shows the problem.
In general, you must:
- Describe why you think the charge to your account is
- Describe why you believe the original check or a
version of the substitute check is needed to determine
whether the substitute check should have been deducted
- Estimate how much money you lost because of the
substitute check. (Include any fees you were charged as a
result of the substitute check. Also, alert your bank to
any interest you lost, if your account earns interest.)
- Provide a copy of the substitute check, or give your
bank information that will help it identify the substitute
check and investigate your claim.
What is electronic check conversion?
Electronic check conversion is a process in which your
check is used as a source of information -- for the check
number, your account number, and the number that
your financial institution. The information is then used
make a one-time electronic payment from your account --
electronic fund transfer. The check itself is not the
method of payment.
How can I reclaim a lost or abandoned bank account?
First, if possible, contact the financial institution
where you opened the account. If the institution no longer
exists, contact your state banking agency
. Provide the
agency with as much detail as possible, including the
financial institution's name, the account number, and the
exact name(s) on the account.
What is the prime rate, and does the Federal Reserve set the prime rate?
The prime rate is an interest rate determined by
individual banks. It is often used as a reference rate
(also called the base rate) for many types of loans,
including loans to small businesses and credit card loans.
On its H.15 statistical release, "Selected Interest Rates,"
the Board reports the
prime rate posted by the majority of the largest twenty-
five banks. Although the Federal Reserve has no direct
role in setting the prime rate, many banks choose to set
their prime rates based partly on the target level of the
federal funds rate--the rate that banks charge each other
for short-term loans--established by the Federal Open
What is a routing number and where can I get information
about valid routing numbers and the financial institutions
to which they have been assigned?
A routing number (also called an "ABA number," a "routing
transit number," or a "transit number") is a nine-digit
number that identifies an institution and the region in
which the institution is located. Routing numbers
commonly appear in the lower left-hand corner of a
personal check. Routing numbers are assigned by the
Official American Bankers Association Registrar of Routing
Numbers and are not assigned by the Federal Reserve.
You can get information on purchasing a copy of the
American Bankers Association Key to Routing Numbers from
the American Bankers Association, or you can consult with
your bank to determine to whom a routing number has been
assigned and whether the routing number is valid.
How can I file a consumer complaint about a bank?
The Federal Reserve urges you to file a complaint if you
think a bank has been unfair or misleading, discriminated
against you in lending, or violated a federal consumer
protection law or regulation. You can file a complaint
online through the
Federal Reserve's Consumer Complaint
You can also call or email
Reserve Consumer Help, the System's central
repository for consumer complaints and inquiries, and they
will walk you through the process of filing a complaint
and answer any questions you might have.
Although the Federal Reserve looks into every complaint
that involves banks it regulates, it does not have the
authority to resolve every problem. There are several
federal agencies who handle complaints about banks and
other financial institutions, so the Federal Reserve may
connect you with or forward your complaint to another
How can I get a copy of my credit report?
You can get one free credit report every 12 months from
each of the nationwide credit bureaus--Equifax, Experian,
and TransUnion--by visiting www.annualcredit
or calling (877) 322-8228.
You will need to provide certain information to access
your report, including your name, address, Social Security
number, and date of birth.
What were the Federal Reserve's emergency lending facilities during the financial crisis?
The Federal Reserve created a number of emergency lending
facilities during the crisis that were designed to address
severe strains in key financial markets and institutions.
In late 2007 and early 2008, the Federal Reserve
implemented several programs intended to address the
extremely limited availability of credit in short-term
funding markets, which are frequently used by financial
institutions and other businesses to finance their day-to-
day operations. These programs included the Term Auction
Facility, which auctioned term loans to depository
institutions (that is, financial institutions that obtain
their funds mainly through deposits from the public, such
as commercial banks, savings and loan associations,
savings banks, and credit unions), as well as the Primary
Dealer Credit Facility and the Term Securities Lending
Facility, which provided overnight and term loans to
primary dealers, a group of major financial firms that
have an established trading relationship with the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York. The financial crisis was a
global phenomenon, and many institutions outside the
United States also experienced problems in obtaining short-
term, dollar-denominated loans. To address this
difficulty, the Federal Reserve established so-called
dollar liquidity swaps with foreign central banks to help
them provide dollar loans to financial institutions in
The financial crisis intensified dramatically in the
second half of 2008, and many financial markets all but
shut down. The Federal Reserve implemented a number of
additional liquidity programs at this time to try to
maintain the flow of credit to U.S. households and
businesses. To reduce funding pressures experienced by
money market mutual funds and borrowers in the commercial
paper markets, the Federal Reserve established the Asset-
Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity
Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, and the
Money Market Investor Funding Facility. And to address the
shutdown in the markets for asset-backed securities, the
Federal Reserve established the Term Asset-Backed
Securities Loan Facility.
During the crisis, the Federal Reserve also supplied
credit to financial institutions that were important to
the entire financial system. Early in 2008, the Federal
Reserve provided credit to facilitate the acquisition of
The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc., by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Bear Stearns was one of the largest securities dealers in
the world, and its problems in obtaining funding
threatened to create a domino effect for other securities
dealers and other markets. Later in 2008, the Federal
Reserve provided credit to support American International
Group, Inc. (AIG)--one of the largest insurance companies
in the world--to allow time for an orderly resolution of
the firm's difficulties. In 2010, the Congress passed the
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
(Dodd-Frank Act), which is designed to address many of the
fundamental problems seen during the crisis, and the
Federal Reserve is working with other regulators and
federal agencies to implement the new law. The Dodd-Frank
Act gives federal authorities additional tools to address
in the future any problems like those experienced by Bear
Stearns and AIG.
What foreclosure resources are provided by the Federal
There is a "Mortgage Foreclosure Resources" section on the
Federal Reserve Board's public website that directs
consumers to many sources of information relating to
foreclosure. Mortgage Foreclosure Resources includes
links to regional Foreclosure Resource Centers as well as
to resources for small municipalities, housing counselors,
and consumer and community groups: