Wells Fargo Won't Let Man Access His Safe Deposit Box, He Misses His Mother's Funeral

Keeping your belongings safely tucked away in a safe deposit box is a great idea. But when your only photo identification is a passport that happens to be inside that box, it might prove troublesome. A man trying to fly to India to visit his ailing mother was prevented from going anywhere when Wells Fargo put up a fight over his safe deposit box.

Karin Price-Mueller over at the Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled blog looked into Syed’s story, which all started back in 1998 when he began renting a safe deposit box with First Union, which then turned into Wachovia and then Walls Fargo. He put his passport and other important papers in the box, and has accessed the box many times over the years.

His mother called from India, asking him to come visit as she didn’t have much time left, he says. So he started making arrangements to visit one last time and organize things for a disabled brother living at home. His father passed away years ago.

Flying to India would require his passport, of course, so he went to pick it up on April 20.

“I have the key and I have a bank card from Wells Fargo and so many times previously — maybe 25 times — I got inside and nobody asked me for more identification,” he said. “Now this time they didn’t allow me to go in. I go and explain that my mother is in a very serious condition, but they said no.”

Bank officials asked for photo identification, but Syed explained that his passport was all he had, and it was in the box. He figured a bank rep could sit with him while the box was opened, and verify his identity with the passport at that time. He was refused, so he said he’d close the account instead. Nope.

“[A bank official] she said that I would have to pay $185 to drill open the box,” he said. “I don’t know why she said that. I had the key.”

The bank then had a police officer stationed on the premises to have Syed leave. He did, heading to another branch of the bank to double check the policies regarding safe deposit boxes. He says they told him if he had the key, it should be no problem, as his I.D. was in the box.

Syed returned days later with an attorney, prepared to verify his identity. Even that didn’t work, as the bank official said they needed a driver’s license and he doesn’t have one. The attorney explained how ill his mother was, and that didn’t sway anyone either. They left the bank without gaining access to the box yet again, and Syed’s mother died last week Wednesday.

Bamboozled reached out to Wells Fargo about Syed’s case. He was contacted by a bank official within 24 hours and told to come to the branch to get access to his box — all too late for him to attend his mother’s funeral.

“The issue has been settled,” said spokesman Kevin Friedlander. “We called him and we one-on-one worked it out with him,” adding, “You need the photo ID. Unfortunately we live in a society where there’s a lot of fraud and in order to protect the people who own the safe deposit boxes, we require a lot of security.”

Note: Yes, it’s good to keep your important papers safe. But it’s good to have a back-up form of identification, even if it wasn’t necessary in the past.

Passport — and ticket to an ailing mother — locked away behind security rules [NJ.com]