Channel 4 has been investigating a purse theft for weeks.  The crimes all happen in a very similar way.  More than a dozen victims say they left their purses hidden inside their vehicles as they went into places like gyms and day care centers.  When they return, they find their windows smashed and their purses gone.

The victims say they immediately called their banks to report their debit card and credit cards stolen and were told or led to believe that “Fraud Alerts” were put on their accounts to prevent crooks from stealing their money.  But in some of those cases, the victims tell us those alerts were ignored by some tellers.

Erica says she immediately called Wells Fargo when her purse was stolen out of her vehicle while she was working out at the Bailey’s Gym on San Jose Boulevard.

“They told me that holds would be placed on my account and issued me a temporary debit card and I could just go about my day,” explained Erica.

She thought her money would be safe, since her bank knew about the theft.

“About two days later, I tried to use my debit card and it didn’t work.  Went to the ATM and I saw that $3,800 had been taken out,” she said.

Erica says she didn’t understand how anyone could make two large withdrawals from her account in the amount of $1,900 each, when she says she had put “Fraud Alerts” on her account.

“That was so frustrating, I can’t even tell you, especially in the amount of $3,800. I kept thinking I’m (my money is) safe,” explained Erica.

The same thing happened to Katie.  Her car was broken into while parked at the LA Fitness on Blanding Boulevard.

“They were going to cancel my card and put a Fraud Alert on my account so no one could tap into that account,” said Katie.

But just like Erica, those alerts didn’t work.  Four checks, $1,900 each, were cashed and withdrawn from Katie’s Wells Fargo account through the drive-thru.

Police say the ring of thieves are stealing purses, dressing up as the women pictured in the stolen driver’s licenses and then tricking bank tellers into giving them cash from their accounts. 

“We put security passwords on my account.  They put something saying ‘no transactions’ through the drive-thru,” said Katie.

Even when Katie says she closed her account and opened new ones twice at Wells Fargo, she says tellers still allowed thousands of dollars to be withdrawn.

“None of the signatures on the deposit slip they signed matched,” said Katie. “How hard is it to ask for a password? You put all these security measures in place, thinking your money’s safe.” 

Katie had a negative $11,000 balance.

Kathy Harrison, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, admits some mistakes were made by the bank.

“Obviously there were,” Harrison responded. “Anytime you have human beings that are processing and handling accounts, sometimes mistakes are going to be made.  We don’t make very many, thank goodness.”  She goes on to say, they (the crooks) have your valid ID so unfortunately even though they do not have your account number, they have your driver's license so they are able to transact business." 

It's the reason it is so hard for bank tellers to know the person at the drive-thru withdrawing money from their account is actually a thief since they are using a valid, but stolen driver's license. 

Channel 4 asked Harrison what Wells Fargo was going to do to prevent this from happening again.