The fake bank scammers are still at it. This morning I came across a Google Ad with the title “12 month CD 3.40% APY | No penalty. FDIC insured | Minimums apply”. The ad pointed to a new fake bank website with many similarities to the fake bank websites I described last week.
As DA readers can tell from the ad, a no-penalty 12-month CD with a 3.40% APY is very suspicious. Even without the no-penalty feature, that would be a very high rate. The best real no-penalty CD that is currently available from a real bank is the 13-month No-Penalty CD (2.60% APY) from PurePoint Financial.
The scammers have become a little more sophisticated with their websites. This one has a new domain name. I did a whois lookup, and it showed a private domain registration which shows no identifying information. The domain name was registered on March 13, 2019. You wouldn’t expect a real bank to have a private domain name registration and a registration that’s less than a month old.
The new fake bank website looks a little more slick. Instead of making up a non-existent bank name, the website claimed to be “A division of Midwest BankCentre.” Does this look familiar? That’s the same line used by RisingBank.com, the legitimate online-only division of Midwest BankCentre. Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult for visitors to validate the legitimacy of the website.
I called the FDIC again to report this new fake bank website, but unlike the last time, I was not able to receive a confirmation from the FDIC that this was a fraudulent website. Since the website stated that it was a division of a member FDIC bank, the FDIC call representative said that I should call that bank and ask them if this website is under their control. Fortunately, that’s easy for me. For the average Joe, that can be a time consuming step. The FDIC BankFind tool has a new feature to help verify legitimate bank website addresses, but that has some issues as I will explain later.
After being unable to receive confirmation from the FDIC about this site being fraudulent, I did what the FDIC call representative instructed: I called the bank that the fake bank claimed to be a division of. That was Midwest BankCentre. The customer service representative (CSR) who took my call was able to confirm that the website had no connection with them. She was going to send my information to their security department so that they can take steps to ensure this fake website is taken down before any money is stolen. I also used this Google Ad complaint form to alert Google of the fraud.
Verifying the legitimacy of a bank website
As I mentioned above, the FDIC has an online tool to help with this. It’s called BankFind, and the tool now allows you to enter a website address to verify if it belongs to a member FDIC institution. The tool can verify the vast majority of valid bank websites. However, it can’t verify all bank website addresses.
The FDIC BankFind tool was improved in 2017 to handle multiple bank website addresses. Some banks have more than one website address so they can separate an online-only division with the brick-and-mortar division. In fact, a few banks actually have multiple online-only websites. Also, multiple websites can exist when divisions operate under different brand names. Lastly, a bank may partner with a company that manages deposit accounts. Below are examples of these three different cases.
Example of a bank maintaining multiple online-only bank websites:
Emigrant Bank’s primary website: www.emigrant.com
Emigrant Bank’s secondary websites:
Example of a bank partnering with multiple companies, each having their own deposit accepting website:
Compass Bank’s primary website: www.bbvacompass.com
Compass Bank’s partner websites that accept deposits
Example of a bank operating two websites under two different brand names:
Chemung Canal Trust Company’s primary website: www.chemungcanal.com
Chemung Canal Trust Company’s division with a different brand name and website:
What cannot be verified with the FDIC BankFind
The first issue with BankFind is that it depends on the bank providing the FDIC all of the website addresses that it uses to accept deposits. There are several banks with multiple websites that have not provided the FDIC their website addresses. Also, it takes time before a new bank website is included in the FDIC database. For example, as of April 3, 2019, RisingBank.com still has no matches in the FDIC BankFind. RisingBank.com is the legitimate online-only bank of Midwest BankCentre. We at DA confirmed this with Midwest BankCentre before we created a RisingBank.com summary page.
The second issue with BankFind is that it only applies to member FDIC institutions. It does not have any information on credit unions or brokerages. Information on most credit union website addresses is available at the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the FDIC equivalent for credit unions. I will have more information on verifying the website addresses of credit unions and brokerages in a future blog post.
Resources to verify a bank or credit union website address:
- Verify bank website addresses using the FDIC BankFind tool
- If you can’t find a bank website address, call the FDIC at 877-ASKFDIC (877-275-3342)
- Verify a federally-insured credit union website using the NCUA research a credit union tool
- If you can’t find a credit union website address, call the NCUA at 800-755-1030