Wells Fargo Allows Your Data To Be Breached – Twice

Reader Bryan’s Wells Fargo credit/debit card stopped working unexpectedly one day while he was trying to gas up his car. He was confused because he had used the card the night before with no problems. He spoke to a Wells Fargo CSR at a local branch and discovered that the data for 125,000 cards, including his, was “compromised” thus deactivating his card. This had already happened to him once before within the last year and he was not pleased. His letter, inside…

Yesterday I was running late for work and arrived with just enough gas to get me to a gas station during my lunch break. I go to a gas station near my job on my lunch break to fill up my car. My debit/credit card linked to my checking account is denied. I had the clerk try both credit and debit, denied, denied. I used my card the night before with no problem. I go to another gas station down the street and denied again. So I call the number on the back and get a hold of a customer service rep. I explain my situation and they state, my card is in “conversion” and they sent me a new card in the mail. I explained to them that I never received a new card or a phone call telling me that my old card was going to get canceled. ( BTW I have almost 2 years before this card should expire) I ask them what caused my old card to expire before the given date. They put the blame on me, stating that I probably did weird purchasing activity or purchased a bunch online. I stated I purchased 1 item for under 20 bucks online in the last year and I check my account online daily. They went back and checked and then stated I was part of a mass conversion for my protection??? (only thing I need protection from is Wells Fargo)

After multiple calls, speaking to 2 supervisors, 3 customer support reps, and one customer support person at a branch, I found out data for 125,000 cards was “compromised”.

This is the 2nd time within 1 year this has happened to me with Wells Fargo. ( First time I gave them the benefit of the doubt since they had an old cell number to contact me, at that time I had them update my profile with my current cell number)

They offered nothing to help me out in the current jam of being at a gas station, with very little gas in my car, with no access to my money. They would not activate my old card temporarily so I could get out of this situation. (I expressed this to every person I talked with )

Between the several calls I got mixed information about how this process works and how long your old card will work during the conversion. (14 day, 21 days, 30 days. They are definitely not all on the same page within the same business. The lucky answer is 14-21 days)

No one would tell me exactly what caused this “compromise” of my card data. This was internal information. Yet I am having to deal with it.

I asked Joseph at the branch why I should stay a customer with them, he answered: “That is a personal choice and frankly I would not stay with a bank that offered bad customer service.” Thanks Joseph for some honesty.

Both supervisors were really rude, claimed Wells Fargo did nothing wrong and implied this was my fault.

They offered me a temporary debit card the next morning at a branch location and stated I should be able to access $300 a day. Actually its only $60 for the first day, I found this out after I left the branch, this further deterred my plans. (I work 9-6, which is their bank hours, very inconvenient for me, so I lose another hour of pay and I needed access to more than $60)

I left a voice mail (only option I was giving) with a manager and have received no call back as to how my data was compromised.

Lesson learned, have a backup checking account just in case your bank decides to cancel your card and not inform you. Wells Fargo has terrible customer service and tons of red tape for us consumers who trust them with our hard earned money. Apparently 100,000+ card data is being compromised on a yearly basis.

We can understand your frustration, Bryan. To have to worry about running out of gas and where you are going to get a few dollars, all because of the bank’s error, is really dehumanizing. To have it happen twice in 1 year would be more than enough for us to start taking our business elsewhere. Loyal Consumerist readers know that there are several reasons to have a backup credit or debit card. It sounds cliche but it’s still good advice: Don’t put all your eggs in 1 basket. It really is only a matter of time before your card has some type of glitch which could seriously inconvenience you or worse.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Pro-Pain says:

    This whole data/card/identity breach situation is out of control. The system is badly broken.

  2. ARP says:

    If you don’t want a separate account or to get another credit card, some banks offer reloadable visa/MC for travel. Careful though, some charge monthly fees, inactivity fees,etc. So look for one that might charge you up front, but doesn’t have all the other maintenance fees and use fees. Inactivity fees are easy to get around (use it once a year). I carry one with me with $400 in case of emergencies.

  3. tptcat says:

    Whatever you do, Joseph, DON’T SWITCH TO BofA!

  4. Yikes. Times like this, I thank god I have a checking account with 1 bank, and a savings account with another… and 2 different ATM cards, on top of checks and a hidden stash of cash at home.

    Contingency plans for all!

  5. NoWin says:

    I’m all for blaming banks when they screw up, but did you stop to think that MAYBE Wells canceled the card because some MERCHANT compromised his card? In that case (usually is), Visa/MC requires the bank to deactivate it, AND the bank can NOT tell you the compromising party. That is the law. (VISA/MC and Fed Privacy regs applies to businesses, as well as you and me)

    Here is a current list of breaches:


  6. NoWin says:

    Here is another site to monitor:


  7. homerjay says:

    O-ho the Well Fargo wagon is-a screwin’ up your life!

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    Data breached TWICE? No notification, consumer finds out when his card is denied? When consumer calls, he is initially lied to about the reason for deactivation?

    Class action baby!

  9. dariasofi says:

    Wow, these stories about smaller banks and bad CS treatment amaze me! I have not had any issues with Wachovia and keep my savings in an online bank account. The new online guys seem to have the best CS I’ve experienced so far in financial services.

  10. Ailu says:

    You know what? Be GLAD. At least the bank acted to protect you. And this may not even be the banks’ fault, could be a 3rd party breach.

    Btw, when these things happen, best to call/visit your local branch instead of the 800 number. Ask them to overnight you a new card, they will do it for no charge.

  11. blackmage439 says:

    Three simple answers can solve these types of problems.

    1. Don’t use debit cards. Period. They are horrendously insecure. Besides, why in god’s name are you using something tied to your bank account??? If you’re like me, and you have your checking account tied to your savings for overdraft-prevention, a thief could easily clean out BOTH accounts. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Credit cards add multiple layers of security through non-linkage to your bank account, fraud protection, and more.

    2. Multiple cards are a winner. In my wallet right now, I have my gas rebates card, Discover card for their 5% cash-back deals, my normal spending rewards card, and finally my debit/ATM card. Unless I’m in the extremely rare situation where a place does not except credit, I never feel cash-strapped. Besides, in this day and age, rewards cards are a dime a dozen. There’s no excuse not to have one.

    3. Stay away from the depression-causing large banks. Find a local, sizable, well-known bank o do you business with. Often times, they offer better interest rates than the big guys. My family has been banking at our local major bank, West Suburban, for over 20 years. I can tell you for sure their rates bury Bank of American and the Dupage Credit Union (who, being a credit union, is supposed to have superior rates to banks…).

    Geez people, please protect yourselves.

  12. theblackdog says:

    @dariasofi: Just do a search here on Wachovia and you will find plenty of complaints.

    How ironic that you start it out as “smaller” banks…do you happen to work for Wachovia?

  13. tptcat says:

    I’m a Wells Fargo customer and I’ve been very pleased with their service – at least at my local branches and compared to the service I received (or didn’t) from BofA(ss) and HSBC. I would be pissed if this ever happens to me.

    That said, if it DID happen, I wouldn’t expect Wells Fargo to call me since in this case it seemed to have affected 125,000 accounts. That’s just unrealistic. What I would expect, however, is a note in my account message center stating that my account was involved in such a situation and that I’ll need another card. Not ideal, but better than not knowing at all. I’m surprised that companies don’t use these features – like the inbox you get with you online account access – in more of a personal way.

  14. ARP says:

    @blackmage439: Good advice to not have your cards linked to an account. But if you lost your wallet, that’s a lot of cancelling to do. Also, with that many cards, it takes a fair amount of discipline to make sure you’re not overspending. If you have the organizational prowess, that’s great. I unfortunately, do not. I do credit card, debit card, and travel visa. I try to use just my credit card and only use debit for cash.

  15. enine says:

    Wells Fargo bought out our mortgage a few years ago and if I didn’t have my house for sale now, I’d be refinancing with someone else. Their collections departent calls me now and usually the conversation goes something like “I’m not sure why the system called you, I see your payment posted two days ago and on time” and I’ve never been late with them yet every month their collections department calls me. Half the time when they call I just get a recording talling me to call their number and when I call it I get another message stating that I’m outside normal business hours, call back.

  16. dragonfire81 says:

    Let’s hear it for credit unions.

  17. highmodulus says:


    Hear hear!!

    That’s why you should be afraid of the big banks attempts to use their legislative clout to go after Credit Unions through the Bank’s cronies in Congress and the Bush Administration. See the latest Treasury proposal for another example of this.

  18. seamer says:

    This probably explains why I was sent a new card with 12+ months remaining on my existing card, and why it was declined without warning.

  19. eco says:

    there’s a reason why I bank at a different bank when I work at Wells Fargo.

  20. FightOnTrojans says:

    Great, one honest CSR at a Wells-Charge-o and you have to get him fired by putting his name up. Sorry, Joseph, no good deed goes unpunished.

  21. deleterious says:

    @dariasofi: Wells Fargo is a HUGE bank in the Western US. Out here we hardly ever hear of Wachovia. Should we assume Wachovia is small?

  22. Lucky225 says:

    Jesus Christ, I hope my card isn’t compromised

  23. TechnoDestructo says:

    At least they cancelled the cards immediately. Would have been nice if they told people about it, though.

  24. Buran says:

    My bank pulled this same thing on me, and it wasn’t Wells Fargo.

    I didn’t find out until I got a message informing me that the account # for my ebill had been changed). They said a new card was sent out two days ago.

    This was today that I found it. I called in and they claim I should be able to still use the card if I need to, though. But just in case I’m going to use my other credit card.

    Now I have to see if the only two recurring bills I have are on that card (I don’t think so, but best to check) and move them if so.

  25. Xerloq says:

    @tptcat: Wells Fargo does have this feature. I get messages all the time. (Just set up your email to forward messages from your bank to your cell phone and voila! mobile alerts!) I’ve got free checking, no atm fees, free overdraft to my CC, and a 4% fixed CC interest rate. I’ve always had good experiences with them.

    I agree, though, that it would be tough to notify 125,000 people overnight that their cards were compromised and deactivated. Unrealistic.

    If you had a call center w/ 1000 employees, at 5 minutes per call, it would take 10 business hours to notify everyone. It doesn’t seem like 10 hours had passed since he last used the card. (I don’t consider automation an option because a computer can’t answer the inevitable questions when a customer is told their cards are canceled.)

    And, no I don’t work for WF. I work for a large software company.

  26. Garbanzo says:

    @dariasofi: According to [www.infoplease.com] , which cites the Federal Reserve as their source, Wells Fargo is the 6th biggest bank in the United States, measured in terms of assets.

    Maybe you haven’t heard of them as a Consumerist reader because their customer service is good enough that they generate very few horror stories that show up here. I’ve banked with them for 12 years and am satisfied with the service I’ve gotten.

  27. BlackFlag55 says:

    WF shipped me a new debit card several years ago with no explanation. I called, concerned about this move. Got a bovine explanation and finally leraned from a family member deep into cyber security that WF had been penetrated and several million accounts compromised courtesy of a giant retailer.

    One of the many reasons, as I’ve said before, I’ve gone back to carrying cash. These technology driven exchange mechanisms like credit cards and debit cards have not improved my life, rather, have created a metaphorical gun pointed at my track record all the time. T’ain’t worth it.

  28. etelford says:

    @Xerloq: I believe you misread my comment. Yes. Wells Fargo does have this and I am aware of it and use it like you do. What I am saying is that it would be nice if Wells Fargo (and other companies) that are already offering such features used them in a more constructive, personal way. For Joseph, if they had notified him by his account – since, as I also said to all everyone is unrealistic – then at least he (and 124,999 other customers) would have been potentially notified BEFORE they went to use their card to be declined.

  29. Ragman says:

    My wife and I each carry two credit cards. Both of us carry our primary Discover for the cashback, then each of us has a different MC/Visa as backup. That way, if we can’t use Discover, or if a wallet/purse goes awol and accounts get canceled, the other is not without a card.

    Especially when you’re on a trip out of state and Discover decides your travels may be fraudulent and suspends card activity when you’re trying to get gas and a hotel room after putting in 500 miles on a motorcycle. Next trip, I’m calling Discover before I leave.

    We had a brick & mortar store lose our Discover number to thieves. After getting the new card issued, which, by the way, involved rolling our existing (and verified) charges into the new account, we found out (the hard way) that our secure single use numbers were not rolled over to the new account, and were canceled as well. What I did was to get another, separate, Discover account to use only with the single use numbers and to never activate the cards or use the actual card number itself. The single use numbers can be singly canceled if compromised, and I don’t have to worry about editing all my online accounts. If the card we carry gets stolen, we just get a new one with minimal disruption.

  30. @BlackFlag55: Sorry, had to laugh…. taint.

  31. Osagasu says:

    In addition to carrying a back up debit/credit card, I’d also recommend keeping at least $100 in emergency cash on you or within reach at all times – be it in your wallet/purse, your glove box, or hidden elsewhere in your car. The important thing is to not touch it until you absolutely need it; being so low on gas and with no money definitely counts as one of those.

  32. goorsha says:

    On the subject of file backup, sharing and storage …

    Online backup is becoming common these days. It is estimated that 70-75% of all PC’s will be connected to online backup services with in the next decade.

    Thousands of online backup companies exist, from one guy operating in his apartment to fortune 500 companies.

    Choosing the best online backup company will be very confusing and difficult. One website I find very helpful in making a decision to pick an online backup company is:


    This site lists more than 400 online backup companies in its directory and ranks the top 25 on a monthly basis.