The depth of Wells Fargo’s problems with rogue employees opening unauthorized accounts continues to grow. The company announced in late August the discovery of a further 1.4 million fake accounts, adding to the 2.1 million that the bank disclosed last year.
Wells Fargo’s CEO has again apologized, and the bank has committed an additional $2.8 million for refunds and credits to affected customers, on top of the $3.7 million the bank says it has already returned to customers who were wronged. The company’s crisis has spurred the dismissal of executives (and soon the replacement of board members, too), the imposition of a $100 million fine from federal regulators, and a $142 million settlement in a class-action suit.
Wells Fargo is in the process of contacting the customers associated with the 1.4 million fraudulent accounts to send refund checks or credit their accounts for unauthorized fees. The bank also will address any concerns that customers raise and determine if they are eligible for any restitution. In the meantime, worried Wells Fargo customers can perform a self-audit on their accounts to determine if they might be among the victims of the bank’s fraudulent practices. Drawn from the bank’s instructions and from advice from ValuePenguin’s experts in banking and credit cards, here, then, is what Wells Fargo customers should do.
Get free credit and bank reports. Any unauthorized credit-card accounts that Wells Fargo, or anyone else, may have opened in your name should be reflected in your credit history. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once every 12 months. The reports are available at annualcreditreport.com. It’s a good idea to check your history periodically, even if you have no special reason to suspect irregularities with your credit.
It’s possible, if unlikely, that a fake Wells Fargo checking or savings account of any kind might have resulted in irregularities on a bank account, such as unpaid fees, such as those from running an overdraft. To do absolute due diligence, you might request a report from ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency that monitors negative banking activity on checking and savings accounts. The document will flag any problems on your account--and only those; if you’ve done a good job in managing and monitoring your accounts, you won’t have a ChexSystems record of any kind. You’re entitled to a ChexSystems report free once per year.
Check statements. If you’re not in the habit of periodically checking account statements and activity, for both your bank accounts and credit cards, it’s worth doing so. That’s especially true if you hold, or held, an auto loan with Wells Fargo.
In July 2017, the New York Times obtained an internal report from the bank that detailed how the bank opened unauthorized auto-insurance accounts for more than 800,000 of its auto-loan customers. The scam involved the bank increasing the customer’s automatic auto-loan monthly payment--say by $50 per month--to cover the cost of the unauthorized insurance. Check the terms of your Wells Fargo auto loan, and then confirm the required monthly payment against the amounts the bank actually withdrew from the account, to be sure the withdrawal was not being padded with a premium for insurance you did not authorize.
Get in touch with Wells-Fargo. Value Penguin banking analyst Chris Moon says you can ask the bank to look up all accounts under your name, to address any lingering concerns. If you prefer to visit a branch to obtain this information, Moon suggests, as a double-safety measure, that you might do so “at a different branch location than the one you used to open your account,” in case any local staffers might have been involved in any fraud.
If a phone call is more convenient, the company has set up a dedicated hotline “for customers who believe they had an unauthorized account or service opened in their name, regardless of when the issue occurred.” The number is 1-877-924-8697. The line is also a means to report any irregularities you may have turned up through the steps above. That will initiate having Wells Fargo investigate them, and perhaps eventually refund any unwarranted charges.