Don’t Tell Your Bank If Your Checks Get Stolen…

If a box of your checks gets stolen from your mailbox, only call if you’re going to cancel your account, at least if your bank is Wells Fargo. One blogger found they refused to cancel a whole box worth of checks stolen from his mailbox. And Wells Fargo told him that if he hung up without canceling his account, he removed the bank of any liability for any fraudulent checks getting cashed…

That’s why Cedric’s advice is: If your checks get stolen, don’t tell your bank… — BEN POPKEN

Advice if your checks ever get stolen: don’t tell your bank [Otaku] (Thanks to Nick, Ramit and Michael!)

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  1. infinitysnake says:

    I’ve cancelled entire checkbooks before with no incident- I think this is just a case of lazy banks.

    Besides which, the bank would have forced the issue again after the first false check showed up.

  2. AcilletaM says:

    While I feel for the guy, cancel the account and get a new one. Theives not only have your checks, they have your account number, your bank’s routing number, and possibly your license number. They can do far worse damage than just writing a check.

    I understand the hassle and possible direct deposit changes and whatnot. Yeah, bad for the customer how Wells Fargo handles canceling checks but still canceling checks doesnt’ cut it anymore. You need to do more to protect yourself. Getting hung up on just the poor customer service aspect in this situation is not smart.

  3. spryte says:

    Ha ha ha, people are raking him over the coals in the comments on his page. While I agree with him that it’s stupid for the bank to claim they are not able to cancel more than six checks and that it would be a big hassle to close an account and open a new one…sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s odd to me that he saw the checks in his mailbox and didn’t think to grab tham right away, but instead left them in the box all day. Not smart…

    Oh, and at the end he says he opened an account at BofA. Sad.

  4. guavo says:

    He should try to ask to be escalated to the “quality division” to get a resolution he wanted, as he was speaking to the supervisor…might have got him what he wanted

  5. homerjay says:

    CANCEL… THE …CHECKS!


    How does someone know if anything is stolen from their mailbox? If you’re in a position to know whats in your mailbox, don’t you take whats in your mailbox OUT of your mailbox?

  6. kingofmars says:

    I’ve only had two encounters with Wells Fargo and both of them have been terrible. I would never trust my money to that bank.

    The first happened with a 6-month no interest loan. I had been making regular payments on the loan. Their billing method was a little confusing, so I called to find out what my remaining balance was. They said it was some $30 less than what I had expected. I even asked her “So if I pay this amount, I will close my account and not be charged any interest.’ She said yes so I made my final payment, and I thought everything was fine. Then I get a bill for the $30 unpaid, plus 6 months interest. I eventually get them to take the interest off, since it was their customer service rep that quoted me the wrong amount. I did end up paying the $30 remainder.

    The second time I had to deal with Wells Fargo, I didn’t even have an account with them. I get a letter in the mail, telling me that I owe them money for property taxes. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because my loan was with a local bank, not Wells Fargo. So I ignore the next couple of letters, until they start calling and threatening legal action. I tell them the whole thing sounds like a scam. They ask for a three-way call to my bank. I tell them no, I’ll verify it myself. I call up my bank, and sure enough the money that they paid tried to pay the state for property tax, was still sitting in escrow, returned to that account by the state. That’s when I decided to let my bank and Wells Fargo work it out. I never heard anything more from them on the matter.

    To sum up, Wells Fargo can’t read balances, or street addresses. So I’m not at all surprised they handled this guys stolen checks wrong.

  7. chickymama says:

    After reading the blog, I do agree with the Wells Fargo rep that no signatures are read. If the money is in the account and the check is valid they will process the check. My brother had a check deducted from his account (he’s never written a check in his life) and he requested to view a copy. The signature did not match his and the person spelled the name incorrectly on the check, but Wells Fargo did deduct the amount because the checking/routing numbers were valid. He was able to get the amount credited back and Wells Fargo did investigate, not sure what happened after that.

  8. Tracy says:

    As a former big bank employee(rhymes with base), I can vouch that this wouldn’t have happened there. While their credit cards did suck, they provided the best customer service I have ever seen in the industry. So, while this one bank did this guy wrong, don’t assume that all banks are that way. Its easy to pick on big banks and they don’t always deserve it.

  9. dantsea says:

    I can pinpoint the exact moment when his relationship with the bank went into the crapper:


    Customer: Look, closing my checking account is a big deal. I have been a customer for eight years, and I won’t do that unless you can give me a very good reason.

    What the bank actually said: I’m sorry, sir, that’s the only option. It’s for your protection.

    What the bank should have said: We could cancel that range of checks for you, but that would be a temporary fix at best, not to mention a costly one under our current fees structure. The larger issue is that your account information and personally identifying information is now known by a dishonest third party. If the account remains open, there’s nothing stopping that person from printing up new checks with a different range of numbers or making online purchases without using any paper checks at all. As long as that account remains open, you remain vulnerable to financial or identity theft.

    The customer wasn’t an idiot, he didn’t understand what was at stake. The Wells Fargo agent and his supervisor both squandered an opportunity to properly educate the customer and instead chose to react to the customer’s tone and words, digging in their heels and doing their best “I’m not gonna” routine and actually escalating his anger and anxiety to the point where he published a very frustrated and upset blog entry that’s received attention here, on reddit, digg and lord only knows where else.

    It’s also possible those two Wells Fargo employees made the much more common call center error of forgetting that what’s apparent to them as someone on the inside of an industry isn’t as apparent to the person who’s calling them who maybe has to think about that same industry for maybe five minutes a week.

    Yes, the customer made a bad choice by leaving the checks in the mailbox. That’s quite apparent. But Wells Fargo made the larger mistake by improperly or never training front line staff and management in the fairly straightforward art of educating and informing the customer to de-escalate situations like this.

    Loser: Wells Fargo

  10. Baz L says:

    I used to be at American National Bank. Had a check card with a daily limit of about $500.00, which I’m sure we all know about. I got it when I started college and used it to pay tuition. I used to be able to simply call them up and ask the increase the limit for a day so I could pay tuition. The last straw for me came when I was way out of town and had to pay tuition because of an upcoming deadline. They changed their policy on me and did not inform me. They claimed that I could no longer increase my daily limit over the phone and that I would have to come in. I tried to explain that I was out of town and that wasn’t an option. I offered to verify my account with all the information they should have. I was willing to read routing numbers, account numbers, social security numbers, mother’s maiden name, all that good stuff. They simply kept insisting that I need to come in and that this was for my own protection.

    Bottom line, I accepted the ridiculous new policy, had to pay late fees for tuition and eventually got a credit card. Banks suck on a whole. If it wasn’t for rent, I would burn all my check books.

  11. Baz L says:

    I’m glad to say that I’m proud to be a Wells Fargo account holder. I mean, all banks have their quirks. One funny incident I had with WF is when I thought my paycheck bounced. After waiting for the check to clear I got some sort of error on the check, I can’t remember. It wasn’t “insufficient funds” but some kind of crap to that extent.

    The checks issued by my employer used to be larger than normal, so when I deposited them in the ATM (I never go into the bank. I can’t even remember what in there looks like) I had to fold the check.

    Apparently, it was too much trouble for the banker to unfold the check properly, so they scanned it with the folded portion covering the account number.

    I mean stuff like that happens I guess.

  12. Morton Fox says:

    If a stolen box of checks is a security problem, then isn’t the checking system itself inherently insecure? What’s to stop someone to whom we legitimately send a check from misusing the routing number and account number on the check?

  13. sr105 says:

    To add to Morton Fox’s comment:

    or just printing the checks on a home printer. If you have a check from someone, you have all of the information you need.

  14. superbmtsub says:

    To add to Morton/Sr105s comments:
    You dont write checks to everybody. Only specific businesses and usually when dealing with large sums of money. Your landlord would like it too.

  15. kingofmars says:

    @sr105
    The routing number and account number are printed with magnetic ink, so your home printer wouldn’t be able to replicate a check.

  16. dantsea says:

    kingofmars: Most banks will still accept the check and just tack on a dollar or so in fees for the extra processing. Also, if our hypothetical fraudster is passing bad checks through a merchant, it would be even less of an issue.