WaMu Doesn't Know How To Deal With Potentially Fraudulent Account?

A reader writes in to tell us about “the world of suck I encountered at WaMu” over some wrong personal data. A year and a half ago, she started receiving Washington Mutual account mail—including overdraft and collection notices—for someone named Ly Ly V____ at her address. “I’ve lived at my home for 11 years, and have no neighbors with that name.”

Since then, she’s tried writing “return to sender” and “deceased” on the mail, going to a nearby branch to ask WaMu reps to change the account information, and even contacting their fraud department, which led to being accused of perpetrating fraud herself (even though she’s not a customer). Ly Ly’s overdraft warnings have finally stopped coming to her address and her cell phone number is no longer associated with Ly Ly’s account, but our reader continues “to get marketing mail addressed to this person to this day.”

Here’s the reader’s full story:

In September of 2006, I began to receive mail at my home addressed to another Wamu Customer Ly Ly V____. I’ve lived at my home for 11 years, and have no neighbors with that name. After politely asking similarly-addressed people on my block if that letter belonged to them, they all said No, and suggested I call WaMu to inform them of the error.

This is where the woe and frustration truly began.

December 2007, I left 2 different letters in my mailbox for the postal worker with the note “Return to Sender, no such recipient at this address,” in hope that LyLy would get her/his mail, and my mailbox would no longer be cluttered. I called WaMu in January 2007 after receiving yet another couple of marketing pieces and overdraft notices for Ly Ly. I was told, after 3 customer service reps, that I should go to a local WaMu branch and ask a branch manager to correct the errors.

At this point, I was like, “WTF,” but I figured, OK, sure, it’s next to the grocery store, I can spare 3 minutes to get this fixed. So I go to the branch, tell the branch manager that no one named Ly Ly lives at that address and that the overdraft and collections notices coming to my home need to stop. So the manager tells me he’s going to look up the account in his system and asks me for my name. I give him my name, he runs off and says, “Ly Ly signed up for her account with this home address. I can’t change it.” I went slightly ballistic.

First off, I understand people move all the time and need to get new bank accounts every so often. Cool. Fine. Whatever. But I’d contacted WaMu MULTIPLE times to inform them that this customer of theirs was using my personal details to secure a bank account, without my knowledge or consent. If a their customer Ly Ly did in fact make an honest mistake, WaMu could just call the customer to ask for a better home address, right? Right. So I said all of this to the branch manager who says, “Sure, I suppose a phone call would help.” He picks up the phone, dials and ….

Ring Ring! It’s my CELL PHONE. Ly Ly V____ USED MY CELL PHONE NUMBER AND HOME ADDRESS!!!! The branch manager starts asking me for ID, and flat out says, “Ma’am I’m going to have to close your account. This is fraud.” WTF?!?!??!!? I didn’t even HAVE an account with WaMu. After explaining the whole situation AGAIN, the branch manager is like, yea, well, “…someone’s lying here and WaMu stands behind its customers.” I left the branch with an 800 number that the manager gave me for their internal Fraud hotline.

I called the hotline later and had to leave a voicemail (wack!).

In April 2007, I get another slew of overdraft notices and collections notices from WaMu addressed to Ly Ly. I’d resisted the urge to open these letters up in the past, but seeing that WaMu was being less-than-forthcoming about my recourse, I decided to open the letters to see if I could find clues to LyLy’s identity. My address is in Los Angeles county, CA, and each and every one of the transactions were from places originating in Fresno, CA, a long ways away. Armed with an account number, I called WaMu back and asked them to change the address because I suspected fraud. After transferring again to a Fraud specialist, the fraud people told me they couldn’t change the address because they needed to verify I was Ly Ly V____. I explained to them again that I was not calling on behalf of Ly Ly, but rather as the resident of the address Ly Ly used to secure the bank account to alert them of the fact that Ly Ly used some of my personal details to get a bank account with WaMu. The fraud drone said she understood, put me on hold, spoke with a manager, and again stated that there was little she could do, since she had no way to get a hold of Ly Ly V____ to confirm (duh. Ly Ly used my info……! ARGH)

So weeks go by. I get nothing. I get another dozen overdraft notices and collections notices.

Understanding that WaMu would do nothing to help me, I decided to check my credit report (whew, no dents in it yet!), and I began writing, “No such recipient at this address. Deceased. Return to sender.” on every single incoming mail piece intended for Ly Ly V____.

I figured, if Ly Ly claims to live at my place, fine. I can claim that Ly Ly is dead. I figured, WaMu would get the returned mail, and send a follow up letter to confirm Ly Ly’s death or something. Sure enough, a few account closure notices showed up at my address. I also wrote, “RTS, deceased” on these letters and sent them back.

This strategy seemed to work for a few months. Then it started back up.

I called their Executive Response drones and explained the situation yet again. Finally, they removed my address and details from Ly Ly’s entry in their system, yet I continue to get marketing mail addressed to this person to this day. If you have strategies to overcome this problem, let me know.

Well, first of all, we don’t suggest you open any more mail sent to your address but with Ly Ly’s name on it, as we’re pretty sure that’s illegal regardless of whether or not she’s defrauding the bank. We suspect WaMu is being overcautious out of fear of being scammed through social engineering (by you), so maybe you should also consider contacting a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in your area, or even talk to a lawyer to find out whether you need to do any other sort of CYA prep work. Since Ly Ly appears to be using her own funds in the account, or at least not yours, there may be little else you can do on your side other than continue to monitor your credit reports annually.

Since you’re in California, check out the advice and resources on this page for more information.

Readers, any other tips?

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“WaMu Doesn’t Care That Your Email Address Is Listed On Some Random Guy’s Account”
(Photo: katayun)

Comments

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  1. darkened says:

    That’s down right concerning.

  2. CurbRunner says:

    Put all of the marketing mail that you get from them into a large clear plastic bag then carry it into the nearest WAMU branch office and dump the bag onto the bank manager’s desk and say that you will be returning with new bags on a regular basis until this crap stops coming to your home.

  3. sleze69 says:

    Can’t the post office be of some use in this situation?

  4. MissTic says:

    this doesn’t smell right. why is she opening someone else’s mail to begin with?

    I’ve experienced address fraud first hand. The former tenents (who were evicted come to find out later) kept using our address. For years we got their mail! Apparently not single piece of mail went to their new address!!! I too, did the ‘return to sender’ bit for ages. I finally talked to the a supervisor at the P.O. and they placed some sort of block on our address that prevented the delivery of any mail for that family’s name. At least that’s what they told me. The mail did stop so….my biggest issue with the whole thing was that they were able to continue to use our address to keep their child in the local school. I knew this because I would get two enrollment packets – one with our child’s name on it and one with theirs. I ratted them out the principal.

  5. ExtraCelestial says:

    @CurbRunner:
    Ha! I like that idea. I wonder how long it will take before they put your picture on the door and ban you from entering.

  6. MissTic says:

    sorry, was looking for this earlier and hit “submit” too fast -

    [www.wamu.com]

    write them a letter!!

  7. Black Bellamy says:

    Why is she opening ‘someone else’s’ mail? It’s not someone else’s mail. It’s hers. If you get a piece of mail into your mailbox you are totally allowed to open it, as long as the address matches. The name doesn’t matter.

  8. gorckat says:

    Mail fraud, obv :P

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @MissTic: Ha! Good job on letting the school know!

  10. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @Black Bellamy: That doesn’t make sense. If you have a roomate, you can’t open their mail.

  11. coan_net says:

    I would look in Fresno for a person named that – it could be something as simple as when they set up the account, they just got the zip code wrong (with the street address the same in both places) – where this cy cy has no idea what is going on.

  12. neost says:

    Go online to the post office’s web site and pay a dollar to have all that mail forwarded to the local wamu branch.

  13. itsallme says:

    Submit a change of address form at the post office with the new address of Wamu Corporate headquarters.

  14. gingerCE says:

    I agree with Misstic–have you tried the PO directly by getting this name of the person blocked?

    However, this person is not only using your address but also your cell phone number, which is very concerning. To open an account with Wamu, she needs a SSN–make sure she hasn’t used yours. A bank account opened with your SSN will not show up on your credit report.

    Good luck.

  15. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @coan_net: I think the phone number on “Ly Ly’s” account was hers too.

  16. North of 49 says:

    i’ve been getting mail from someone who has the same last name, but different first name, for years. Apparently, they lived 5 doors down, since we’ve also gotten mail for their spouse and had the address confirmed.
    This has been going on for over two years. I really loved when I got on the phone and was accused of being them by a cheque cashing place demanding money for a fraudulent cheque. *eyeroll*
    I have an easy answer to their call “the only people I am related to with that name, other than my children, are in (location).” That usually gets the stuff to stop for a few months.

  17. MikeB says:

    Put in a Change of address form (only if this is legal) and have it sent to WaMau.

  18. Okaasan says:

    @gingerCE: That doesn’t always work either. I’ve been getting my home’s previous owner’s mail for 9 years now. I am also consisently getting notification of someone else’s frequent flyer miles from UA. I’ve asked the local carrier and the local branch manager to fix it, but to no avail. Now I just file them in the round recepticle and let the recycling guys handle it.

  19. MPHinPgh says:

    @CurbRunner: That has to be one of the best (i.e. most evil) ideas I’ve ever heard!

    I like it!

  20. chemmy says:

    So clearly WaMu sold the fraudster’s name and address to other companies so that they could solicit business…. nice….

    I would buy a rubber stamp that said “return to sender – deceased) and a red ink pad. And stamp away.

    In fact, I would hold onto them for a long while and then fill up the nearest blue mailbox with them. Maybe the post office will get the hint.

    Or put in a change of address form. Change Ly Ly’s address to WaMu’s.

    They’ll love that!

  21. meanwalrus18 says:

    my roommate got a ticket for having a keg….three weeks letter a local lawyer was mailing my roommate offers to defend him in court…how the fuck did this guy know my roommate had gotten a ticket? no arrest mind you….a ticket for a lease violation….this stuff is happening everywhere i work at borders and we fire employees all the time for shit like this, usually though we cant do anything about it just let them go….i think americas broken, we can tack a ups package but not our identity?

  22. AaronZ says:

    I was thinking change of address form as well. Then you never have to see or deal with Ly Ly’s mail for at least 6 months.

  23. mmcnary says:

    @neost: I did that once with someone who was getting all kinds of mail at our house. Except I forwarded the mail to general delivery, Nome, Alaska.

  24. JohnMc says:

    1/ Don’t tamper with the mail. Leave it sealed.
    2/ Saying ‘Deceased’ defeats your purpose. That is a belated confirmation of the estates residence at that address.
    3/ Contact postal authoriities. That certainly have a process to dead letter missent mail.

    However, my guess is the poster’s ID was sold for the purposes of obtaining false identity. I would also suggest that the poster contact the various reporting agencies and put a notice that anyone using her address using the fraud’s name be validated before credit is issued.

  25. formergr says:

    I had something similar happen to me with Chase. I got a letter for “William (FormergrLastName)” in my mailbox. It looked official (not junk mail), so I opened it because I thought it sketchy (there are no males in my family with that name). It was a confirmation of receipt of a home equity loan application.

    I called Chase to A) give them the heads up that they might want to deny the app, and B) make sure that my SSN wasn’t linked to this. It wasn’t, so I wrote the matter off. I got another two weeks later congratulating “William” on his approved loan. Called again, no one cared. Got one more from another bank also about a home equity loan application. Called them, yadda, yadda, no one seemed too concerned. Then never got any more, so I wonder if they did finally catch up to “William”…

  26. FightOnTrojans says:

    I wonder if Ly Ly is depositing her work/welfare check into the account (you can’t continually overdraw unless you bring your account current somehow, right?)? If so, couldn’t WaMu pull the check to see if an address or employer is listed on it, then proceed on from there to get the real address/phone number. Or would that be expecting too much from the guys with nothing up their sleeves, and nothing in their heads as well.

  27. Black Bellamy says:

    @AlteredBeast:

    If there are 123456789 people living in one house and a piece of mail arrives and it doesn’t have any of their names on it then any of the 123456789 persons can legally open that mail.

    And if it’s a package and it contains stuff then the stuff is yours to keep.

  28. mac-phisto says:

    [www.zabasearch.com]

    look him/her/it up, find an address/phone #, send wamu a change of address.

    case solved.

  29. NotATool says:

    What is the motive? What would someone gain by having their statements sent to someone else’s address and using that person’s phone number? Answer that question and you’ll be well on your way to figuring this one out.

    It’s not identity theft as it doesn’t appear to involve the SSN. Is this a “friend” or “former friend” who has access to the address/cell phone number combination? Do they have no address of their own yet need a bank account? Is someone trying to launder money through the account?

  30. mike says:

    @Black Bellamy: I’m going to call shenanigans on this. Do you have a postal code?

    Mail gets misdelivered all the time. Are you saying you’d be okay if someone sent you a large money order, but was mis-delivered to me, and I cashed it?

  31. JiminyChristmas says:

    @meanwalrus18: Arrest or not, police reports are public records. Plenty of law firms make it standard practice to scan police reports for potential criminal defense clients or accident reports for personal injury clients. Many years ago I was on the losing end of a car-bicycle collision and got several letters from personal injury firms. I did not avail myself of their services.

  32. goller321 says:

    They got the cell phone from the OP calling in. A good reason not to use your cell phone number or any other number you don’t want credit companies to use. The log the number called in from and save it for the future. I made that mistake once with my cell, and never again.

  33. reznicek111 says:

    @AlteredBeast: Well, that’s not the situation here – in this case there was no one named “Ly Ly” living at the OP’s address, or nearby. After asking neighbors if the mail belonged to them and repeated – unsuccessful – attempts to track down the problem, I certainly think opening “Ly Ly”‘s mail to look for clues was a reasonable action.

    If I suspected someone was using my address and cellphone number fraudulently, and I was getting the runaround from the creditor, you bet I’d open the envelope.

  34. Flame says:

    I’m not entirely sure about everything that’s going on in this situation, but I can tell you that just about every large corporation in America sells their mailing lists to third parties. If they don’t do that, they may give it to an outside agency to send promotional mailers or other things like that. Most likely, that’s why you are still getting that kind of mail. I would have to go with most of the rest of the commenters and say that the local post office might be the best way to go. Take a few of the mailers with you, so that you can show them what you are getting.

  35. Jim says:

    @NotATool: Liens and repossessions. Keep bouncing checks and dodging bills and eventually a lien will be placed on something or it will be repossessed. Better for it to be at some sucker’s address in another town than at your house.

  36. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @FightOnTrojans: That’s kind of what I was thinking too. When I worked retail long ago there was a girl who would pay a check-cashing / loan place each week to cash her paycheck. When I asked why she didn’t just open a checking account, she said she couldn’t.

    Which brings me here – why would anyone *NOT* be able to open a checking account? I’ve had an account since I started working and I’ve always been under the impression that it was easy as pie to open a free one.

  37. brent_w says:

    @Black Bellamy: Exactly, legaly, anything that is mailed to you becomes your property.

  38. brent_w says:

    @sohmc: Unless the check has your name on it cashing it is fraud.

    But the physical check itself is yours.

  39. MissTic says:

    QUESTION: Is it a crime to open someone else’s mail if it is placed in your mailbox?

    ANSWER:
    Yes.

    It is a federal offense for a person who is not the addressee to open US mail that has been misdelivered or even mail addressed to a person living in the same household, although a certain amount of leniency is given to spouse’s and/or the parents of minor children.

    Mail that is delivered to the wrong address should be returned to the postal carrier, taken to the post office or placed in a postal box to be delivered to the named adressee.

  40. Jim says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: If you overdraft often, a bank may decide you’re not worth the risk and close your account for you, and not allow you to open a new account. If you’re in a smallish town, it only takes a few times to run this course with every bank in town.

    You also have to, theoretically, provide some proof of address which may be more difficult for some people than others. If your friend had just moved, moved frequently, or didn’t have any utilities or anything in her name, she may not have had enough information to verify her account info.

  41. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @MissTic: What if it’s the right address but wrong name, (and not another resident?)

  42. azntg says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: Because of Chexsystems.

    If you did stiff a bank (overdrafts and refused to pay off, for example) and whatnot, you have it coming. However, if someone decides to screw with you and put a negative comment on Chex even though you’re in the right, you’re essentially locked out from making a checking account on most major banks and credit unions!

  43. This feels like a good opportunity to launch:
    An Executive Email Carpet Bomb

    My answer to the branch manager who said they would have to close my account would have been, “Fine, close my account. I already told you, I’m not a customer. But, if closing my account will get your fraud department on track in recovery/criminal prosecution of Ms. V____ fine. Do what you gotta do.”

  44. Shadowman615 says:

    I say just go to the post office, get one a change of address form, and have all of Ly Ly’s mail forwarded somewhere else. Preferably to one of WaMu’s addresses.

  45. Black Bellamy says:

    From some of the posts above I bet people don’t know that an employer can totally and legally open his employess mail as well, regardless of what name is on the envelope and how many times it’s stamped “private”.

  46. Japheaux says:

    @shadowman615…That is the best idea yet, only send the mail to the branch manger’s house. Then call WaMu as Ly Ly and report your cards lost so they close your accounts.

  47. mac-phisto says:

    @MissTic: or placed in the shredder with all the other crap i don’t care about.

    let’s see the csi:usps team reconstruct the crime by piecing together a few thousand 5mm square pieces of paper.

  48. hexychick says:

    @mbouchard: That was going to be my suggestion as well. I can’t see how thats illegal.

  49. cmhbob says:

    @meanwalrus18: That kind of stuff is public record. There are some attorneys here in Columbus who get a daily list of all the car crashes the day before. Alarm companies get a listing of all the burglary reports last week, and send them ads for alarm systems. It’s public record.

  50. jamesdenver says:

    @mac-phisto:

    Gil Grissom could.

  51. clickertrainer says:

    In California, you can register your car at whatever address you give. So, I register my car at YOUR house. There is nothing you can do about it. Isn’t that nice? Happened to me….turned out it was a neighbor who didn’t know his address, but the DMV would not change the address on the car unless the registered owner requested it. You cannot even report it as fraud. I’m going to use a better address than my neighborhood for my next car.

  52. econobiker says:

    Get it to the fraud department. Tell them what you wrote here.

    It is possible that Ly Ly needed a good address drop for her mail to live in your town /county as proof of residence such as suggested prior about the school issue but the phone number item is an issue.

  53. Parting says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: I knew a girl like that. She couldn’t open a chequing account because she was afraid her ex would find her.

  54. erica.blog says:

    Don’t claim she’s dead or open the mail or anything like that, just state “no such person at residence, return to sender”. (I do particularly like the suggestion of saving the letters and dropping them off … every week until a solution is found.)

    It sounds like there’s a possibility of ID theft. Try to work with Wamu to see if the SSN on the account is yours (something like “the last four numbers are this, yes or no?”, since they’d better not just tell you what the SSN is) — in which case the problem is bigger than just getting Ly Ly’s mail.

    @clickertrainer: oooooh, quick route to better insurance rates, I like it!

  55. bombaxstar says:

    The name + the picture = kinda creepy

  56. badgeman46 says:

    For some odd reason, whenever I get a new phone number, it always previously belonged to a deadbeat. So of course its bill collectors, “we’re gonna take your car and your kids” and all that. Its absoulutely vexing. But since I live in Florida, and its a Mass area code, I usually just tell them to come and take the kids and the car and the sofa. Deep thoughts. Mmmm.

  57. Buran says:

    @chouchou: How? Bank records aren’t exactly public records.

  58. Xkeeper says:

    I’m amused that (at least, for me) “Ly” is prounced “lie”.

  59. Starfury says:

    I’ve been in my house since 1994 and STILL get mail for the people that lived there. Bank statements, retirement information, catalogs, and even legal documents. For the first 5 yrs or so I’d put “return to sender” on the envelope and send it back; finally I got tired of it and now they go from the mailbox to the recycle bin unopened.

  60. trujunglist says:

    I’d just do a simple skiptrace to see if anything turns up. For some reason, I doubt anyone with the first name “Ly Ly” is going to have the last name of “Jones” or “Smith”, meaning that the skiptrace will have a 99.9% chance of succeeding provided that someone has that last name. Doesn’t really matter if that person is her or her parents or someone else related, you just have to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Too bad the name is likely 100% fake.
    With a little help from the internet and my past skiptracing skills, I was able to track a woman down who hit and ran on a co-workers car in the parking lot. Another co-worker saw it happen and told him, but when he got the license plate and called the cops, they didn’t have much information on her other than her name because they were out of state plates. Building management wouldn’t do anything either. My co-worker left several business cards on her windshield telling her to call him about the accident, which of course did not elicit any response. At that point he was basically stuck, until…
    TJ to the rescue! I asked what her name was, and it was something like Bassledorf or Melidostokovski, or something crazy, and so I proposed that we skiptrace her. I looked up her full name for the entire country and came up empty, which wasn’t very surprising. Next, I looked up her last name. Low and behold, a match came back for Colorado… which happened to be where the license plate was from. Guess who’s parents I had found? Needless to say, they weren’t very happy to receive a random, slightly angry phone call from my co-worker demanding her cell phone number, but they decided that their daughter being arrested for a hit and run was less than ideal, and decided to call her up and ask her about it with a promise to get back to my co-worker. 10 minutes later, guess who finally decides to give my co-worker a call and take responsibility for the damages (that her FRIEND did, of course.. in her employers parking lot..).
    The kicker? Had my basic skiptracing not worked, he would’ve had to pay out of pocket nearly 1k for the damages. The REAL kicker? We had found out (again, due to my skiptracing skillz) that she works for Progressive in the building across the parking lot. She claimed it was her friend that had borrowed her car and… for some reason decided to go to her employers private access parking lot? I guess she knew the ropes from working at Progressive and knew how to get away with the hit and run charge that the cops were planning on giving her once my co-worker filed charges.

  61. freedom69 says:

    I guess the best way to resolve this issue is that the branch places a restraint on the account until the customer comes into a branch with her identification to update all information on the account. You could achieve this by calling into the fraud department and advising them that you have all of her account info…meaning that if the account does end up getting fraud on it they are fully responsible…so as a way of avoiding an account takeover you suggest that they block everything until she updates her info at a branch with i.d. Take the reps name and rep number advise that this could result in making the bank liable for any fraud perpetrated on this womans account. I dont think that at that point the rep will have much of a choice and hopefully when LY Ly cant use her money or account she will get ahold of the bank and all this Bullsh*t will stop.