Wells Fargo Fake Account Fiasco Grows By 1.5 Million Customers

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

It’s been nearly a year since Wells Fargo was slapped with a $185 million fine for pushing their employees to increase their sales numbers by opening new accounts without proper authorization from the customer. Now the bank has revealed a new estimated number of so-called ‘fake accounts‘ that is 1.5 million higher than the bank had previously disclosed.  This brings the new total to 3.5 million.

Wells Fargo revealed the increase today following the completion of a third-party review of retail banking accounts opened as far back as 2009. These accounts are referred to as ‘fake,’ but are very real for the customers who didn’t authorize their creation.

Expanded Search

In all, from Jan. 2009 to Sept. 2016, employees opened approximately 3.5 million unauthorized consumer and small business accounts.

Originally, the bank said that about 2.55 million accounts were opened from May 2011 to mid-2015, following a review of 93.5 million accounts.

After expanding the investigation to include a review of 165 million accounts opened between Jan. 2009 and Sept. 2016, investigators uncovered that an additional 981,000 accounts had been opened without customers’ permission.

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Of the newly uncovered fake accounts, Wells Fargo estimates that 190,000 incurred fees and charges. This is an increase from the 130,000 accounts previously believed to have incurred fees and charges.

While Wells Fargo confirmed the additional accounts today, just three months ago, downplayed reports that 3.5 million accounts had been opened fraudulently, calling allegations “hypothetical.”

More Unauthorized Activity

Wells Fargo notes that the recently concluded analysis included a review of online bill pay services.

The review found employees completed about 528,000 potentially unauthorized online bill pay enrollments.

According to Wells, potentially unauthorized accounts were identified as those with only one minimal payment and no further use of the service.

The company cautioned that because some customers may have made an authorized introductory payment and then elected not to use the service, the review did not definitively determine if an enrollment was authorized by a customer or not. As a result, some authorized enrollments may be among the 528,000 accounts.

Wells says that it will refund $910,000 to customers who incurred fees or charges from the unauthorized bill pay enrollments.

More Refunds

Now that the company has completed the third-party review of accounts, executives say the bank is turning its focus toward making things right with customers.

To do this, Wells Fargo says it will provide another $2.8 million in refunds and credits. These refunds come in addition to the $3.3 million previously refunded after the initial investigation.

(The bank reports that it has already provided $3.7 million in refunds based on customer complaints and mediation claims between Sept. 8, 2016, and July 31, 2017.)

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Additionally, the company says that customers may receive compensation under the recent $142 million class-action settlement for claims dating back to 2002. Wells Fargo said in a statement last month that over the next three months it will begin broad outreach to current and former customers, including providing information about the process for making claims.

“We want to ensure we make things right for each and every customer who may have concerns about the impact of unacceptable sales practices,” Mary Mack, head of Community Banking, said in a statement.