The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. It was created by Congress in 1913 to stabilize the money and financial systems of the country. The Federal Reserve Bank, or Fed, controls the nation's money policy, supervises and regulates banks and provides financial services to the U.S. government and financial institutions. Recently, the Fed has been the center of an internet scheme to steal people's personal and financial information.
Is There a Federal Reserve Hoax?
Beginning in 2017, videos began appearing online claiming to assist people in accessing their "secret" Federal Reserve accounts. These hoax videos offer to supply account numbers in exchange for personal information, such as Social Security numbers. People aren't aware that they've been the victim of a scam until they try to use the "account number" to pay bills. The Fed denies the payment, and the victim is left with outstanding bills and late fees, along with possible identity theft problems.
What is a Federal Reserve Account?
As the Federal Reserve Bank exists only to provide financial services to government entities and financial institutions, it has no individual accounts. An excess balance account at the Fed is established for eligible institutions to hold money and earn interest. Each participating institution has to authorize an agent to maintain the account on its behalf.
How to Check Your Access Account
As there are no individual access accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank, it's impossible to check these accounts. They don't exist, except in the imagination of criminal scammers.
How to Avoid Internet Hoaxes
Almost everyone has fallen for at least one internet hoax. Most are harmless, little more than jokes or pranks. The trouble happens when you come across one of the rare internet hoaxes that are trying to scam your money or personal and financial information.
The best of these hoaxes appear intelligent and very reliable. They're designed to tie into a strong feeling of some kind, such as pity or greed. They seem so logical, though, that it can be difficult to determine what's real, especially when you know other people online who are just as excited about them as you are.
The key to avoiding being scammed by an internet hoax is to keep in mind that not everything online is real or true. If you're tempted to take action because of something you see online, take some of these steps, first:
- Check the source of the story. Is it a reliable source, one you've relied on for a long time? Or does the name sound just sort of familiar? There are entire hoax websites online, so don't trust it based only on the fact that it's written on a website.
- Check how many sources are reporting this opportunity. Is it only posted by some anonymous people on social media? Or have national news companies begun to follow the same story?
- Check the dates on the story. Are they current?
- Check the grammar in the story. Is it full of typos and misspelled words? Real news sources employ editors to make sure the prose is clean.
- Look to see if you're being asked for personal information. Never give your Social Security number or banking information to an anonymous source online.
- Check the sending email address if you get the information in your email. Is it from a source you recognize?
- If you're at all uncomfortable, back away and ask a trusted friend or relative to check it out for you. If the story is legitimate, it will still be there in a day or two.
Debunking hoax sites is made a little easier by some handy websites. Bookmark both snopes.com and hoax-slayer.com, and use both sites when checking questionable stories.
One final way to keep yourself safe from hoaxes is to limit your personal information online. Google your name often to see what information's being shared. Never post any photos of you online that you wouldn't want shared with future employers or your clergy. Never accept social media friend requests from people you don't know, or who don't have any online friends in common. Finally, always install strong virus protection software on your devices, and keep it updated on a regular basis.
Individuals can't access individual Federal Reserve accounts. This is a hoax used to scam people to steal their personal information.
Victoria Bailey has a degree in Public Law and Government. She has spoken before state Supreme Court justices and her photograph is on the back cover of Bill Clinton's autobiography. As a former member of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Bailey worked closely with lawmakers to help set public policy. Bailey's work appears on numerous websites, and she's currently writing the text for a governmental information app.