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?

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