Bogus Wells Fargo accounts make customers nervous

Bank fined $185 million for improper account openings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many people who bank with Wells Fargo remain in a state of shock over the news that more than 2 million bank and credit card accounts were created and fees charged without the customers' approval or knowledge.

In some cases, Wells Fargo employees even created fake email addresses to sign up customers for online banking services.

Roughly 5,300 employees at Wells Fargo were fired in connection with this behavior.

"Wells Fargo built an incentive-compensation program that made it possible for its employees to pursue underhanded sales practices, and it appears that the bank did not monitor the program carefully," said Richard Cordray, director of CFPB.

Thursday, the San Francisco-based bank was ordered to pay $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created five years ago; $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and $50 million to the city and county of Los Angeles. The bank has already started paying restitution to affected customers.

"It's crazy," Jacksonville Wells Fargo customer Blanca DelRosario said. "I just don't understand how they could have gotten away with it."

Here are some things customers can do for insurance:

  • Go online and check your accounts to make sure they are the accounts you set up.
  • Call Wells Fargo Customer Service at 800-869-3557 or walk into a branch.
  • Look at the resources and recommendations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at Consumerfinance.gov.

A Wells Fargo representative in Jacksonville said the bank doesn't have a geographic breakdown of where the unauthorized accounts were created, how many customers were affected or where employees were dismissed.

"It made me very uneasy," Wells Fargo customer Shelley Konrath said. "I'm a single mom, so my money is obviously very important to me, so I want to go change my bank as soon as possible."

Financial advisor Joe Krier, of Krier Wealth Managment, said this is a public relations nightmare for the bank.

"These banks are so huge that oversight is really the issue that has allowed some of the rogue employees to break the rules without being caught until reporters and other people start digging into it," said Krier. "I think that Wells Fargo has enough momentum to survive this. They've got work to do, but I really do think that they'll get past it."

But Krier said this is a reminder for all people who bank to check their statements and credit report on a regular basis.

"Seeing if there are accounts on the credit report that we don't know about and if you spot something there, get on the phone and call right away," Krier said.

Krier also said having a relationship with your own branch can give you some assurance. That's what Jimmy Wilks is doing.

"I do trust the manager there," Wilks said. "I'm just going to keep my eye on it and just go from there."

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo told Jacksonville News4Jax this afternoon that they have refunded the erroneous fees and have notified the customers affected.

In a statement, Wells Fargo said: "We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request." Wells Fargo said they've refunded $2.6 million in fees associated with products that were opened without authorization.

READ: Wells Fargo's full statement


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