Wells Fargo Keeps Hanging Up On Your Deaf Grandmother

vco-voice-carry-over

Rachel’s 86-year-old grandmother was a loyal Wells Fargo customer for more than thirty years. She’s been forced to take her business to a new bank because Wells Fargo representatives refuse to talk to her.

See, she became profoundly deaf about twenty years ago, and makes her phone calls through a TTY relay service. A few weeks ago, Wells Fargo customer service reps abruptly stopped accepting relay calls, claiming it was a new fraud prevention policy.

First, a bit of background information on the equipment Rachel refers to in her e-mail. A TTY (also known as a TDD or text telephone) is a device that people with hearing or speech disabilities use to communicate over standard phone lines. They haven’t changed much since the 1980s, but are still in common use. It has a keyboard, a small screen, and sometimes a printer. TTY machine users can call each other, or they can dial in to tax-funded relay services, where a hearing person acts as an intermediary between the parties. (I worked as a relay operator for a while after college. I spent a lot of time getting paid to listen to AOL and Dell’s hold music and be yelled at, and the net effect was that I became a consumer advocate.)

For deaf people with good speech skills, or who lose their hearing later in life like Rachel’s grandmother, there’s a different kind of relay call, which is called voice carry-over, or VCO. The relay operator transcribes one end of the conversation, and then the caller just speaks directly to the other party. Many people who only make this type of call have a specialized VCO phone, which has a screen but no keyboard.

That’s the background. Here’s Rachel’s story.

Thought I’d drop you a line about a little problem my grandmother is having with her Wells Fargo. My grandmother is 86 years old and became profoundly Deaf about 20 or so years ago. She uses a special kind of TTY machine specifically for people in her situation – she can speak clearly, but she just can’t hear over the phone. It’s called Voice-Carry- Over service. She’s been calling Wells Fargo this way since she first got her machine. She’s had an account with them for over 30 years.

Just in the past two weeks or so, however, she can no longer speak to a banking representative. They give this long-winded speech about how they can no longer accept ‘third-party’ relay calls (which, you know, all relay calls are third party, since there is an operator acting as a translator, hence the point of the whole service). They want her to use the Internet (she doesn’t have a computer) or go to a banking center (which would require her to schedule a ride with the disabled transport service in her city) or they want to transfer her to a TTY line, just to check her account balance.

The last option may sound (sort of) reasonable, with one glaring problem – my grandmother doesn’t have a normal TTY machine. She has a VCO machine. It doesn’t have a keyboard. She can’t type to a TTY operator, she can only speak on the phone. Connecting to a TTY line would be utterly pointless. That’s why she uses the relay service to handle these calls for her.

It seems to me the Americans with Disabilities Act requires equal treatment under the law. If a person like me can call a regular banking rep and get my account information, she has the right to do the same, relay service or no relay service. She doesn’t have this problem with anybody else – she can call Social Security, her pharmacist, her doctor, etc, and they can all accept relay calls without batting an eye. I was confused as to why Wells Fargo felt they were an exception to this rule.

When I called to get some clarification, the rep I talked to cited problems with fraud. I feel bad that Wells Fargo is unable to secure their accounts against fraudulent calls (something we should all be worried about if we have an account there?), but that seems like an internal problem rather than something my grandmother should have to deal with. She can prove her identity five ways from Sunday – no sweat. She’s been calling her bank for nearly 20 years using the relay service and never had even a hint that her account was in any way compromised.

The Wells Fargo reps keep hanging up on her and she finds this all very upsetting. She just needs to know about her accounts, but apparently, Wells Fargo doesn’t feel that’s a service it needs to offer to its disabled customers. I’m going to go help her close her account there this weekend and see if we can get her set up somewhere else. It’s something neither of us want to deal with, but we’re at our wits’ end. Anyway, I just thought I’d send this out as a warning to all your readers out there. Don’t bother opening account if you can’t hear on the phone – they clearly don’t want your business.

The only type of relay fraud that I know of is Nigerian scammers using Web-based relay systems to call and steal from American businesses. This was a serious problem starting six or seven years ago, so why the sudden policy change now? And why should a ban on relay calls due to Nigerian fraudsters affect old ladies with long-standing accounts whose voices you can hear on the phone?

One nifty alternate option for current VCO users is Captioned Telephone, which uses speech recognition technology instead of slow and error-prone humans with keyboards. Or people could keep using the technology they’re comfortable with, and Wells Fargo could just stop being such jerks about it.

Please Don’t Hang Up [New York Relay]
Disconnected? [Baltimore City Paper]
Captioned Telephone [Official Site]

RELATED:
Capital One Hates Deaf People
The Ideal Woman Versus Ford’s Dickhead Steve

(Photo: Weitbrecht Communications)

Comments

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  1. JeffMc says:

    When they say “fraud” what they really mean is it slightly increased the length of a tiny number of calls and someone decided they could get better metrics if they just didn’t bother taking those calls.

    Unlike the scooter/drive through lady I think this might be a case for the American’s with Disabilities Act.

    • Subliminal0182 says:

      @JeffMc: That would make sense, except for the fact that the two banks I’ve worked for have received these calls in branches more than call centers (add in the fact that they don’t use metrics).

      • Subliminal0182 says:

        @Subliminal0182: Gah need an edit button! What I meant to say was, WF’s situation may be different from other institutions (not just financial) and it may be true they’re doing this for metrics, but many other places have gotten in deep shit when it’s found out that the person using the relay service aren’t who they say they are.

    • RandomZero says:

      @JeffMc: Actually, when I worked in a call center, I got a LOT of obvious phishing calls claiming to be VCO. (The giveaway was always the informal attitude of the operator.) Generally, they’d make the “Customer” voice completely indecipherable when you asked for key info (SSN, account #, etc), and after a couple attempts they’d ask you to read it out so they can say yes or no. So this is a completely plausible reason, to me.

      Plausible, however, doesn’t mean valid. The correct response would have been to take five minutes to train reps on what an ACTUAL VCO/TTY operator sounds like, and to never ever give out key info regardless of who it is.

    • Bs Baldwin says:

      @JeffMc: No, when they mean fraud they mean fraud. It is people phishing for any information they can get about an account and or customer. I have had one call where someone asked me for their SSN; yeah like that sounds logical.

  2. Wombatish says:

    The only “fraud” I could see here is if the relay operator ripped off the consumer by stealing whatever account info they overhear or receive. (I’m not sure if they can hear the conversation on both ends or not, not familiar with VCO just TTY) and that seems like it’s a. on the relay service to prevent (which I’m sure they take steps to) and b. would be just as big a problem, if not bigger on the TTY line, which they support and allow.

    Sounds like Wells Fargo is just either playing CYOA or is unfamilar with the technology, somehow (they didn’t realize they were receiving VCO calls all that time, and somehow do know? I don’t know). Either way, seems like a poor excuse.

    Just have the VCO client sign a small waiver that is like “I am me. I use this service. Don’t hang up on me.”.

    Sounds like time for an Executive Email Carpet Bomb, a call to the State Attorney General, and a call to the ACLU (half-kidding).

    I mean, as long as this is a proven, recognized, partially tax-funded possibly (not sure if VCO gets that treatment too) service, Wells Fargo is just silly to refuse it.

    Find your Grandmother a better bank, Rachel :D, and I hope it all goes well from there.

    • Wombatish says:

      @Wombatish: Do know now**

    • Subliminal0182 says:

      8 easy steps to how this works:

      1. Scammer goes to sites such as ip-relay.com

      2. Scammer initiates call to a branch (phone numbers are listed on bank websites under “contact”)

      3. He/she may have a lost/stolen check, debit card, name & address, or SSN (or any combination of these). Even if you have just a name, you can easily pull up addresses and phone numbers from sites such as zabasearch.com

      4. They get any info they have and pretend to be that person “Hi, this is relay operator relaying a call for someone deaf or mute…”

      5. They’ll give you most of the identifying info all the while making small talk through the operator

      6. They’ll ask for balances, direct deposits, etc

      7. They’ll say they’re disabled, need some cash, and are sending their sons/grandsons/daughters/granddaughters/etc and if you could PLEASE have a withdrawal ticket ready the person coming to pick it up will have permission to sign it (or sometimes they’ll come by with a fake ID)

      8. Since they’ve just given you everything used to identify that person, it would be “silly” and against laws for the disabled to deny this transaction, amirite?

      If the branch really knows the person (they’ve been coming there for a few months), they’ll use email to talk to the client. If it’s obvious the person uses another branch, we give them that branches number or don’t take the call.

      There are many programs banks offer such as balances, transfers, etc through text messages; online banking; and a lot more.

    • Bs Baldwin says:

      @Wombatish: If you have never worked in a bank, just don’t say anything about something you don’t have any knowledge in.

  3. Murph1908 says:

    Ok. Devil’s advocate here. I am not in any way blaming the poster. This is a bad situation for your grandmother, and I hope you find some way to resolve it with Wells Fargo.

    Sensitive information is being discussed over the phone. During the call, I would imagine account numbers, passcodes, mothers’ maiden names, and partial SSN are being mentioned. I could see how having an unrelated 3rd party listening in could be a security issue. The third party might be able call in next month with all the information they need to gain access to her account.

    However, if that’s the case, Wells Fargo needs to have their OWN VCO operators, like they have their own TDD operators, apparently.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      However, if that’s the case, Wells Fargo needs to have their OWN VCO operators, like they have their own TDD operators, apparently.

      @Murph1908: I agree. Even if you go with WF’s explanation there’s still something they can, and should, be doing to fix it instead of refusing to work with their customers.

    • pop top says:

      @Murph1908: But if the caller is consenting to allow the third-party to hear their sensitive information, then is it really up to the bank to police these calls?

      • henwy says:

        @squinko:

        Yep. Consent wouldn’t matter if this went bad and turned into a lawsuit situation. You can’t consent to give up your rights when it comes to negligance on the other’s part. It’s sort of like how you can sign all the consent forms you want when you go in for surgery, but if the doctor does something negligent, you still have the ability to sue.

        • sophistiKate says:

          @henwy: This isn’t the same thing. This is about privacy. If I walk into a doctor’s waiting room and freely announce that I have foot fungus (rather than telling the doctor in the exam room later), I can’t sue them because I revealed my OWN information in their office (even though they CAN’T ask me about my foot fungus in the waiting room).

          That’s what this situation is akin to. Medical negligence would be the bank investing her money very poorly.

      • eelmonger says:

        @squinko: If money gets stolen from the caller’s account, the bank is going to be the one taking the financial hit not the caller.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @Murph1908: i work in the medical field and use a third party translation service when i speak to people who need to communicate in another language. the service we use is under contract to abide by our company policy regarding HIPAA. [for the record my company isn't legally bound by HIPAA, we just stick to it as a best practice]
      the service we use involves speaking about medical information, some very private topics, and often insurance info [which for medicare/medicaid recipients means social security numbers] and financial data if they are applying for financial aid.

      i would imagine that there’s something in place for the telecommunications employees who provide service for the hearing impaired – they probably have some sort of confidentiality policy or contract in place as part of their employment

  4. Waverly V Phillips says:

    Ah more joy and bliss from the scourge known as Wells Fargo. I guess between them pulling crap like this and referring to blacks as “Mud People” and pushing sub prime loans on them. Wells Fargo has certainly guaranteed that I will never conduct business them.

  5. BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Does the grandmother have a cell phone? I know that many deaf people use cellphones and some have ones that only text message. Could you set up daily balance reminder email/message to the phone itself? Just some ideas.

    • BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: Or why not get a TDD device, if they allow that?

      • MMD says:

        @HasADealForYou_GitEmSteveDave: But why should she have to go to the extra expense when Wells Fargo is the only place that won’t accept the technology she uses everywhere else?

      • LibraryGeek says:

        @sirwired: I have used both relay and VCO, people have regularly hung up on me. It may not be legal, but it is difficult to prove what they are doing. They can claim a dropped connection or that they thought it was a wrong number. I have encountered people in call center that have no clue what relay is and think it’s a wrong number and hang up.

  6. takes_so_little says:

    “I’m going to go help her close her account there this weekend and see if we can get her set up somewhere else.”

    Good move.

  7. majortom1029 says:

    Unlike the women in a scooter case this is a clear violation of the ada act and this should be bigger then that other case.

  8. bkdlays says:

    Wells Fargo is a joke. Leave the bank. Don’t waste your time with them. Their loss. Plenty of banks around. Find a nice small one and be happy.

  9. SeanMacATL says:

    I’m the devil for saying this out loud, but THIS IS WHAT ONLINE BANKING IS FOR.

    I had a client at a previous job who would call me through a TTY service and hog a minimum one hour on each call. I explained that I would be able to provide service faster and more efficiently if she would either (a) use the chat client available on the front page of our website (and actually was set up so I could find her easily to engage her directly) or (b) email me the query so I could handle the concern without tying up her day as well.

    And did I mention this was for a tech training firm, that she was abundantly proficient with computers, and she STILL demanded to go through TTY?

    Annoying.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @SaritaPony: This woman is 86 years old! She doesn’t even own a computer! Before you go off saying “you should be doing this…” you have to take into account that she has neither the technology nor the skills, and is it really time to be teaching her all this (and possibly failing) when you could probably just circumvent the entire issue and get better service elsewhere?

      It’s a shame technology leaves behind those who fail to adapt, but we can’t help everyone with new technology. Some people just don’t adapt. It’s very possible that she could be the most tech savvy of the entire family and they just don’t know it yet. But right now, that’s not their solution and they don’t seem too inclined to buy her a computer and teach her about the series of tubes.

    • Tim says:

      @SaritaPony: First of all, she doesn’t have a computer.

      Second of all, ADA isn’t about the person with disabilities making accommodations, it’s about the business making reasonable accommodations.

      For example, if I build a building with multiple stories, I can’t say “Hey people in wheelchairs, just get stair-climbers!” Sure, stair-climbers would allow people in wheelchairs to access the building, and it would make it so I don’t have to build an elevator. But it doesn’t quite work like that.

      • Skankingmike says:

        @TCama: Actually that depends on when the building was built and if there was construction done to it starting in the 70’s I believe.

    • Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

      @SaritaPony: Let’s scale back a little bit, please. Remember we don’t want to cast blame on the consumer. Constructive advice is fine, but remember, we’re talking about an 86 year old woman here. Online banking may not be realistic.

    • korybing says:

      @SaritaPony: Computers aren’t a breeze for everyone. I have one grandmother that took to computers really fast (despite having macular degeneration and requiring a whole host of technical gadgets that allow her to see the screen), and my other grandmother is lucky if she can get to recipes.com every day. This lady doesn’t WANT a computer and doesn’t need to plunk down hundreds of dollars just to be able to do something she’s been doing regularly for decades with no problem.

    • Smashville says:

      Plus, how would she even know if she could afford a computer if she can’t find out her balance.

    • MMD says:

      @SaritaPony: Probably not as annoying as actually having the disability, I’d bet.

  10. ionerox says:

    Have they tried the TTY line? Perhaps they are equipped to handle grandma’s situation and just lump all the services for hearing impaired folks there.

    I know that WF has over the phone translation services, but I’m not sure whether they use internal employees for the translation or a service.

    • shanoaravendare says:

      @ionerox: She can’t use the TTY line because of the equipment she has.

      FTS
      “…they want to transfer her to a TTY line, just to check her account balance.

      The last option may sound (sort of) reasonable, with one glaring problem – my grandmother doesn’t have a normal TTY machine. She has a VCO machine. It doesn’t have a keyboard. She can’t type to a TTY operator, she can only speak on the phone. Connecting to a TTY line would be utterly pointless. That’s why she uses the relay service to handle these calls for her.”

      TTY lines can only handle input from a keyboard, which Rachel’s Grandmother’s machine doesn’t have.

  11. sirwired says:

    It is true TTY relay (especially on-line relay) has been the source of a lot of fraud attempts, especially from Nigeria. Until the FCC gave the relay providers permission to simply hang up or at least warn the other end if they judged it was a fraud attempt; morale at the relay service had dropped like a rock, as it was accounting for something like 90% of their calls.

    However, I’m pretty sure absolutely refusing to do business using a relay operator is probably not legal. A good resource would be whatever state govt. office handles services for the deaf. I believe most states have one. Perhaps they can contact the bank.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @sirwired: “However, I’m pretty sure absolutely refusing to do business using a relay operator is probably not legal.” But it’s really common. When they can get away with it, call center reps love to hang up on relay calls because they screw with their call time metrics.

  12. kingofmars says:

    Wow, nice article Laura. I always love it when I come to consumerist and learn something tottally new. I cent think of a good solution, but wells Fargo needs to figure one out.

    • Bs Baldwin says:

      @kingofmars: These articles only solidify people’s view that the Consumerist is just for some spoiled brats that hate not getting their way, even if it goes against logic, reasoning, reality or the laws of physics. If I offended you, you are the problem.

  13. jacromer says:

    It is unfortunate what the grandmother is going through, and I hope there would be some sort of “fix” to meet both parties needs.

    I work for a financial institution’s* call center and I receive some relay calls every now and then. It’s fascinating that maybe 1 out of 10 is a legitimate call. All others are apparent fraud because there are factors that just don’t make sense.

    I assist with the online banking customer service, and when a relay call arrives asking for assistance for a customer’s online banking, and then seeing clearly the customer doesn’t even have online banking to begin with is a major concern – possibly phishing?

    In any event, I can understand Wells Fargo’s policy to safeguard fraud, but if it wasn’t thought out carefully regarding VCO callers, then I truly sympathize that this was overlooked.

    Reading the article, no bank is 100% safe from any type of fraud, this would only mean declining relay calls would be a measure to reach near that goal. Personally, I would be thankful that if a fraudster/impersonator was relay calling trying to obtain my information that the attempt was shutdown by the representative.

    But then again, how difficult is it for a fraudster to obtain a TDD/TTY machine?

    [* company not disclosed for I am not an official representative as such my opinions are solely my own.]

  14. Foneguy says:

    Call the local investigative news media. Then call the states atty. General. Then call the ACLU. Then WITHDRAW all but $10.00 from the accounts, but keep trying to call in and get info. This is a clear violation of the A.D.A.

    These bastards will keep abusing the elderly and disabled as long as they can. Taking them to task and shaming them via public media and and ACLU supported court action is the only way to get their attention. I can’t wait to see Grandma on the news telling about how she can’t deal with Wells Fargo just BECAUSE SHE IS DEAF!

    Shame Shame. Very sad.

    • HasADealForYou_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Foneguy: Did you read the article? They DO follow the ADA. They:

      or they want to transfer her to a TTY line,

      The problem is she does not use a TTY machine. She uses a service which uses a third party to aid in communication. THAT is the problem.

    • korybing says:

      @Foneguy: And she’s not willing to switch to TTY because she has been using VCO with WF for literally decades with no problem.

  15. organizedhome says:

    Being profoundly hard-of-hearing, I’ve got a suggestion: move the OP’s grandmother to a 2-line captioned telephone. The advantage is that the captioner hears ONLY one side of the conversation–and so is much more secure:

    [www.captionedtelephone.com]

    When I make a call on my main line, the second line connects the person I’m calling to a captioner; the captions then appear on my phone screen.

    Because the captioner can’t hear what I’m saying, it means that account numbers and identifying information remain secure.

    There’s also a little bit of Consumerist side-benefit using a 2-line captel: the caption transcription is saved and can be printed out if necessary.

    Whenever I have a tricky negotiation with a business or service provider, I make sure to tell the CSR something like this:

    “I just need to make you aware that I am hard-of-hearing and using a captioned telephone. A captioner is listening to your end of the conversation, and typing your responses. This means there may be a bit of delay in our conversation while they catch up with you–and that there will be a written record of this conversation. Hope that’s okay!”

    I’ve never had service refused–and when I do disclose the captioner on the line? I get better, friendlier service than when I don’t mention the existence of a third-party record.

    Of course, there are a few downsides. My 101-year-old grandmother insists on thinking the captioner–whom she usually calls “Captain”–after everything she says. So our talks go something like, “Yes, dear, I’m fine. Have you been to church lately? Thank you, Captain!”

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @organizedhome: Your grandmother is adorable and that story made my morning. :)

    • korybing says:

      @organizedhome: Oh my god that is not a downside at all, that is the cutest thing I’ve heard all morning.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @organizedhome: Old people rock.

      They always have cool stories about some thing or another too. I bet she’s got awesome stories about the depression or a war!

      • organizedhome says:

        @Skankingmike:

        Not to worry, guys–I love it, too.

        The other thing my Mamma does on these calls? Makes SURE that she mentions, “I am one hundred and one years old!” about six times during the call. In September, she’ll be 102.

        Would you believe that she still has a valid Arizona driver’s license … and a 2-year-old car? She doesn’t drive it, but gets a real kick out of threatening to do so.

        Love you, Mamma.

        • korybing says:

          @organizedhome: Oh man she sounds like a pip. I think if I was nearly 102 years old and still aware enough to act like that I would be bragging about my age at every opportunity.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @organizedhome: I mentioned CapTel in the article for exactly this reason–I think a lot of current VCO users could really benefit from it, but don’t know about it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Maybe I missed it, but is she calling a local branch or the customer service number? If she’s calling a branch I understand why they are reluctant to give out any account info. I used to work for WF and we were strictly prohibited from giving out account info over the phone even to customers we knew because, we were told, the phone line wasn’t secure. Also, when I was there, I know they had a lot of known fraud with people using either TTY or VCO or both. They’re just covering their asses at their customer’s expense as usual.

    Can’t someone call the automated line and get the info for her?

  17. augiet65 says:

    I have been reading several comments that people have been making.

    First off, if the company is concerned about fraud then they need to be aware that sometimes daughters will call in on their mother’s contracts or account and sons will call in on their father’s contract or vice versa. There is almost nothing you can do to prevent fraud just short of making someone go to a branch everytime they have a question. I work in a call center and there have been times where I was sure that the wife was calling in on the husbands contract or the reverse but they answered all of the questions right and I could not do anything about it. As long as the person on the phone answers the questions correctly there is nothing the company can do and they are not liable if the company asks the proper security questions.

    I have taken phone calls from the relay service and they do take longer than normal phone calls but that is not a reason to have the customer suffer because of a disablity that they have.

    Disclosure ( I work in a call center and I am Deaf in one ear and have major hearing loss in the other)

    • LucyTuzy says:

      @augiet65: I’m also a customer service rep, and yes the TTY calls take longer and really screw with my call times. But we do take them and finish the call to completion, which I am totally fine with. That being said, I have never taken a TTY order that has gone through. Every card number I’ve taken during a TTY call has come back as fraud. This is not to say all TTY calls are fraudulent. But it appears to be a very common occurrence.

      I’ve also had fraudulent calls of “mothers calling for daughters”, etc where the caller didn’t have correct information or couldn’t give me the billing address. I’d love to live in a world where I could take every caller at face value, but it just doesn’t happen. I’ve also been a victim of fraud in this type of situation where someone posing as my mother opened a TMobile account. I have no idea why they did, but the jerks at TMobile actually opened the account without confirming it with me!

  18. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I once took a standard relay call about 13 years ago while doing tech support for a major computer manufacturer. Granted here our only goal was to help the customer, and there was no sensitive information.

    It was awkward. The relay operator gave instructions at the begining of the call that we were to talk as if speaking directly to the deaf person, but when dealing with acronyms and such we had to bend the rules just a bit here and there.

    It went ok, but not being able to hear noisy fans or hard drives was a slight disadvantage.

  19. Deborah Gray says:

    With the “graying” of America, this is just a dandy idea for Wells Fargo to implement. What is it with some banks? It seems like they want to lose customers. She should switch to Mechanics if there’s one near her. I changed to them a couple of years ago and love them, although I don’t know anything about their access for deaf people.

  20. Ronin-Democrat says:

    OP you have the order of operations backwards.

    find the new bank first, call their number and see how the respond.
    then open the new account.
    then close the old account

  21. Michael Harnois says:

    I practice debtor protection law; Wells Fargo is an evil empire, best avoided whenever possible.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I actually work for Wells Fargo and can tell you this is by FAR NOT the case at all, we are required just like any business to except these calls and have a procedure in place to handle those calls. If she is still a Customer of Wells Fargo you can have your Grandmother call the number listed on the back of the card. Now dont call the 800 number, call the number listed if you have to make a Collect Call. This should get you directly to an Opr who can then transfer to who you need to speak with directly. Please only use this for TTY service, and you should have no problems again in the future getting through to anyone at Wells Fargo. If you are unable to locate this number on the back of your card, please just let me know and I can find it for you.

  23. NumberFourtyThree says:

    At a retail store I used to work with, at one point we started getting a bunch of prank calls using one of these services, apparently the work of an ex-boyfriend of one of my co-workers.

  24. 310Drew says:

    After working too long for the evil empire of Bank Of America I can assure you that they are doing this because of security reasons.

    I’m not sure how or why but this has been a common problem for banks for some time now, as I left over a year ago and there was a major alert then about tty and vco calls.

    Also keep in mind that phone banking is not a right, it’s a feature, just like online banking. you do not have to use it, you can always come in to a branch just like the old days.

    perhaps this woman should make friends with someone at the local branch who would be able to take her calls.

    • floraposte says:

      @310Drew: I suspect that phone banking is indeed a right, from an ADA standpoint. In other words, I doubt that they could legally tell her she needs to come into the branch so long as they offer phone banking to the able-bodied customers.

    • MMD says:

      @310Drew: Are you really advocating that she “schedule a ride with the disabled transport service in her city” (from the OP) to seek out a compassionate human being who’s willing to take her calls?

      • 310Drew says:

        @MMD: last I checked phone banking is listed as a feature on an account just like online banking. should banks have to make special accomodations for blind people next? How about obese people who cant get to the branch? should we force them to do house visits next? where does it end ?

        Also, this has nothing to do with compassion, if the boss says you cant take the calls, you cant take the calls. I would not put my job on the line for something as stupid as this.

        I also do not understand why people use phone banking soo much. Keep track of your credit & debits and it will all work out.

  25. Anonymous says:

    This is not a new policy! I work as an interpreter for a video relay service, and Wells Fargo has been doing this to customers for at least 6 months. It is frustrating for video relay users too, because like the grandmother in the story, they do not have a TTY at home. Video relay enables Deaf people to use their native language, American Sign Language, to communicate. Many ASL users have weak English skills so they don’t have TTYs because they are too hard to use. So Wells Fargo has been doing this to them for quite some time.

    Actually, there is a way for video relay users to get around this. They just tell the interpreter not to announce that it is relay. But video relay is MUCH faster than text relay, and they can usually trick the Wells Fargo representative into thinking it’s not relay. Text relay is very slow, however, and it is obvious when something is a relay call. It’s harder for text relay users than video relay users, but it’s discriminatory to both groups to not accept relay calls.

    Also, Wells Fargo is the only company that does this. I have interpreted calls to dozens of other financial institutions and none of them have this “fraud prevention” policy – they all find other ways of dealing with the issue.

    • Bs Baldwin says:

      @ZahraDolabella: A female calling for a Tom or Jim is not going to trick anyone, neither is the lag time and or heavy typing. Anyone that has been tricked shouldn’t be working with customer’s information.

  26. greyspot says:

    Devil’s Advocate here. Who has to replace all that cash if it gets spent or withdrawn fraudulently? WF, I assume. I don’t suppose they wouldn’t let you call in with your friend on 3-way either, not to mention the person in the middle is a complete stranger! I understand the grandmothers complaint and really do feel for her, but uh, SIREN SIREN RED FLASHING LIGHT SECURITY RISK!

    She could just get a caption phone and solve the problem. I personally would NOT feel comfortable with another person on the line while handing out info they could use to impersonate me.

  27. Anonymous says:

    On their website, Wells Fargo lists a customer service line for the hearing impaired. Have you tried calling that number? The number is 1-800-877-4833.

    https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/diversity/accessibility/

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’m a deaf caller who uses ip-relay to place calls all the time.

    A peeve of mine is calling places only to get hung up on. I know that talking to someone like me through the relay services is time consuming and all, and I do try and minimize the time spent on the conversation. Usually, I’m already typing in what I need to say while the relay operator is explaining the call to the receiver. More than half of the time I get hung up on instead. (Got a few free pizzas this way.)

    However, there is one thing I will not do through the relay services, that’s giving out my SSN, my banking information or my credit card number. Now, I’m sure the relay operators are nice people and all, but I just don’t know them.

    A possible solution: Banking software should have a memo field, at least, all three of my banks has a memo field on their system, and it indicates that I’m a deaf person who MAY call through the relay services. I wonder if there’s a way the OP could set up a code word or some phase, and have that changed monthly with a mail or some other method? This way, the OP only has to say the code word or phase to confirm her identification, the bank operator can confirm the identity [cue in spy movie music] and maybe the bank can ask an innocent question expecting an odd answer (anything otherwise would indicate force)…….

    Nah, I’m rambling here. She should just go find herself a new bank. Preferably, a local credit union instead of some faceless nation-wide bank that outsources their customer services call.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I too work at a financial institution – and relay call fraud has been a huge issue over the last couple of years. I have no doubt this was why the prohibition was put in place. However, I wonder how many customers are in the position of losing all access? When we went to a new phone tree system a few years ago, rotary phone stopped working to reach us. We had a few broke, elderly members who lost access like this and we actually bought them phones.

  30. Bs Baldwin says:

    Stop it with the ADA crap. Banks have been getting hit with Relay Call Scams in the last 6 -9 months, they are doing what they can to stop any fraud with their customer’s accounts. If you had fraud on your account, wouldn’t you want the bank to find a way to stop it?

    In this case, Wells Fargo offered different options on how they could service their customer. It is not their fault that none of them were satisfactory to the op.

  31. Anonymous says:

    The problem isn’t so much for people using TTY (TDD) machines. Wells Fargo provides a TTY number so that customers with TTY’s can call and do their business with a Wells Fargo operator who has a TTY, thus bypassing relay. The problem is for deaf customers who now use VRS, and have gotten rid of those old outdated TTYs. They now have no way to contact their bank! The really sad part is that fraud using VRS relay is rare, since those using it must be fluent in sign language. Fraudulent relay calls happen over typing devices, because almost everyone knows how to type. Wells Fargo needs to differentiate and accept VRS relay calls, or in the alternative, allow it’s customers to fill out a paper which is kept on file stating that they are deaf and give permission to Wells Fargo to access their accounts through a VRS provider. Another option is for Wells Fargo to set up it’s own Videophone and hire sign language interpreters to take calls from deaf customers, but that may prove to be too costly. In any case, not accepting calls from their deaf customers who no longer own TTYs is an unfair and discriminatory practice.

  32. roguemarvel says:

    I know this is an old topic but I want to post for anyone who might look threw the archives like I was.

    I used to work for Wells Fargo as a CSR. I worked there when they stooped taking relay calls. It was some what of a relief, not just because of the handle time issues, but because I got tired of the fraud calls where they got angry when I asked them for there info and they of course didn’t have it and claimed i should be more accommodating to their situation. I also hated the stuck up relay operators who refused to break the rules about talking to me. I once had to ask a customer (who must have thought I was an idiot) to repeat a number they had given me because when I asked the relay operator who I miss heard to repeat the number, the refused saying I couldn’t talk directly to them if I wanted it repeated I would have to ask the customer.

    Anyway. There is actually a work around. Over the phone a CSR rep can only talk directly to the customer. If the customer choses to have a 3rd party on the line and even talk to that 3rd party they have every right. The CSR rep is not allowed to answer questions or really talk to the 3rd party only the customer. Since the Grandmother can talk and only has issues hearing she should just talk to rep and have the translator on the line to tell her what the rep is saying. As long as she is the one talking there should be no reason why they can’t help her. Of course i don’t know if that possible with the system she is using but if it is it fixes the problem.

    It really does suck, I can tell you my heart bleeds for this women, if I had been on the other end when she had called and it was fully explained I would have suggested this

  33. twbiotch says:

    I just came across a Public Notice in yesterday’s (6/19/2011) Houston Chronicle. Apparently, Wells Fargo (including Wachovia) has conceded to a settlement w/the DOJ under the ADA. The settlement addresses all violations under Title III of the ADA including Wells Fargo’s failure to communicate effectively with people with disabilities such as past refusal to accept relay calls from people who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. A copy of the settlement is at http://www.ada.gov, can be requested from WFClaims@usdoj.gov, by calling 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY). Claims have to be made by January 29, 2012. Hope this helps someone!!

  34. twbiotch says:

    I just came across a Public Notice in yesterday’s (6/19/2011) Houston Chronicle. Apparently, Wells Fargo (including Wachovia) has conceded to a settlement w/the DOJ under the ADA. The settlement addresses all violations under Title III of the ADA including Wells Fargo’s failure to communicate effectively with people with disabilities such as past refusal to accept relay calls from people who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. A copy of the settlement is at http://www.ada.gov, can be requested from WFClaims@usdoj.gov, by calling 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY). Claims have to be made by January 29, 2012. Hope this helps someone!!