Is Wells Fargo Stealing From its Customers?

Banking giant can’t explain money mysteriously missing from  student’s account.

In some of the articles I have written for the OBRag and now the San Diego Free Press I have alluded to having foreign language students living with me to hone their English speaking/writing skills. I have housed over 350 students since 1992 and currently have a 29 year old Korean young lady and a 19 year old Swiss man living with Buddy and me.

This story revolves around Monica, my lovely student that has been with me for over seven months. Her English is very good but she does not think so. Listening and interpreting is still difficult for her but she loves to learn and is very bright.  She wants to return to Korea and become an English teacher or a translator.  I think that both are doable because she is so eager to learn.

When Monica first arrived in the United States she opened an account with Chase back because checking accounts were free. But when Chase began charging a monthly fee she decided to change banks and went to Wells-Fargo.  Because she is not allowed to work in the US, her mother wires her money from Korea on a monthly basis. (She was told that there would not be a charge for this service, but, as it turns out, she is being charged a fee. ) Almost immediately she had difficulty and I had to intervene on her behalf.  (I know, critics, that Wells-Fargo would not talk to me WITHOUT her permission, but she gave it and we had “speaker phone” conversations.)  Apparently when she signed up for the account she was asked if she wanted her checking account to be tied to an “overdraft protection” plan. Of course she said “yes” but did not fully understand the meaning of this account.  When she received her statement she saw that $100 had been moved from the checking account to a savings account and she felt that this had been done without her knowledge. She said that no one explained the overdraft protection plan to her; merely that if she was overdrawn the amount would be covered.  (I can see where her confusion comes from, particularly if the overdraft protection was not explained to her in the detail that she needs.)  We straightened that out and she understands that part of the system now.

On Wednesday she called me in tears from Wells-Fargo. It appears that she made a $400 withdrawal from her account on May 30 to cover the cost of tuition for school on June 4th.  She did not make any withdrawals after that time, and knew that she had $300+ in her account for books and other things.  She was horrified when she went to withdraw $20 from her account and was told that she only had a balance of $7.  I asked her if she had tried to make the withdrawal from the savings account, thinking that if there had been any overdrafts the original $100 moved to that account would be depleted. She answered that she had checked that account too but the $300 was missing.  I told her to talk to the bank manager and call me from his office so I could help her out.  She did. The bank manager told me that on the same day there was a $300 withdrawal after the $400. I asked what time it was done but he said he’d have to check. I asked who made the withdrawal, and he told me he would have to check it out.  I asked how soon he would have an answer. He told me he didn’t know. I asked for a ballpark figure and he said 24 hours.   He said he was sure it was a “computer glitch” and would be straightened  out in no time.  A computer glitch?  What kind of glitch does a computer make where-in $300 goes missing from a customer’s account?

Needless to say Monica was a wreck.  School has started; she needs her books; the bank tells her she doesn’t have the money.

Today is Thursday and the “missing money” saga is still going on.  She called the bank after class – interesting that she was told to “call us” – rather than they calling her.  She was told that the investigation was still going on and she will have to wait until after the weekend to straighten it out. When she called me to tell me this latest episode, I told her to call them back and tell them she could not wait until the weekend; since she had given me permission to act on her behalf to call me and let me know what the situation was so I could translate for her. (No, I don’t speak Korean but I do speak “body language!)  Unfortunately, she had to return to class and by the time she called the bank they were closed. I suggested that she leave a message to call me first thing Friday morning.

Friday morning dawned overcast and breezy and I began my normal routine as usual – washing the clothes for my students and myself.  About half an hour into the wash – it is now 7:45am – Monica came over to me, sheepishly, and said, “Have you started the wash yet?”  I answered “yes”. She then said, “did you check the pockets of my jeans?”  “No,” I answered. She said, with panic on her face, “all the information about my bank account was in the pocket.”  I suggested that she go out to the dryer and check to see if it survived the wash.  She came back, forlornly, to tell me that the information had been reduced to powder and she didn’t have the information anymore.  She was ready to cry until she remembered that she had left a message for the bank to call me, and, hopefully, they would do so.

At 10:00am, I was  getting antsy because we have not heard from Wells-Fargo and I needed to leave at 11:30am. I called the branch to find out the name of the manager and spoke to “Frankie.” He gave me the name of the manager and we hung up. Seconds later the phone rang and when I answered it Frankie was on the other end of the phone. He was just about to call me about the Monica situation when I called for the manager’s name. (How eerie is that?)

Once again I put him on speaker phone, and, luckily, Monica was here when he said that the investigation was continuing but that he would put the missing money back into her account so that she could have access to it TOMORROW. Monica gasped, and he said “do you need it sooner?” When she answered “yes” he told her he would put it in right away and she would have access within the next 5 minutes.

I asked him what he thought happened and he told me that they no longer use “paper transactions” and have switched to electronic withdrawal. He said that probably what happened was that her bank number was not cleared out fast enough and the next person  who made  a withdrawal had the money removed from  Monica’s account and not the  his. Sounds a little fishy to me.)

I called a former student of mine – not a foreign language student – that happens to be a manager at another Wells-Fargo in Northern California and asked her about the explanation. Her first response was “it sounds like fraud to me.” Her second response was that “the teller made a mistake”, and the third response was in the form of a question to herself – “I wonder if the teller pocketed the money.”  She said that she had never heard of the answer Frankie gave to me, and quite probably, the investigation will turn up the answer in the next thirty days.  (I know that Monica will not be given the explanation, and she really doesn’t need it since her monies were returned.) Meanwhile, she said, the monies should be returned to Monica’s account without delay. When I told her that there was originally going to be a delay she said that all that needed to be done was to post it as a cash transaction and it would only take seconds. Apparently that is what Frankie did, because when Monica checked her statement the money was posted to her account.

I am not sure if the fact that Monica is not a native speaker and could not ask the right questions played any part in this situation.  Was she taken advantage of? I don’t know.  I do know that in spite of the money being redeposited, my suggestion is to  check and save all receipts and, most importantly, change banks.


Judi Curry

High school dropout who decided to show the educational community what learning is all about. If it's the status quo something's wrong with it and I'll scratch the itch!

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  1. avatarVictoria says

    Something I do not understand is the inability of giving you or Monica an answer about the problem right then and there. One of the things Wells has over other banks is there system. The manager should have had an answer for you with in a few minutes. There system is very high tech and easy to use. It would have taken one system to find out what happened to the money. If not for that then one call to the back office on where the money is. Yes they have a new paperless system but nothing has changed in the way the system works. with memos and where the money went. Something is not being said to you or Monica about that money and should have been fixed the same day as the problem

  2. avatarSandi says

    She is so lucky to have you as her advocate. I’ve been using Cabrillo Credit Union for about 30 years and have never had a problems that wasn’t fixed immediately. You might want to check them out – no monthly fees, immediate reimbursement if someone hijacks your account, and friendly service.

    • avatarjudi says

      I am not sure that she, as a student here, can use the credit union, since it is “owned” by the members. I will check on that Monday morning. I, too, use a credit union for both checking and savings accounts. Thanks for the idea.

      • avatar says

        I believe most credit unions have loosened up their standards to include anyone who “lives, works, or worships” in a county where the CU has branches. That’s the policy at Point Loma CU, where I’ve been for almost 10 years.

  3. avatarBob says

    I switched my business and personal accounts from Wells Fargo to California Coast Credit Union a couple of years ago, and they have been wonderful. Well worth the trouble to switch.

  4. avatarCaren says

    I’d also recommend having her sign up for online banking. It can be a great help to be able to log in online and immediately check your balance and a list of transactions, times, etc. on the website. That way you aren’t depending on thebank’s customer service skills, or lack thereof.

    • avatarjudi says

      Thanks, Caren. I had already suggested this to her but she had actually gone into the bank and got the original money from a live teller. She has learned a great lesson from all of this. Your suggestion is greatly appreciated.

  5. avataralfredo garcia says

    yea wells fargo does still money from its customers I am currently a customer and I noticed small amaounts of money disappear from my account I know this is a fact
    because I am allways on line looking at my balances and I noticed that they don’t post your transsaccions rightaway they hold them and wend they addem toghether doesn’t make sense at all on your balances becarefull don’t trust wells fargo is not an onnest bank the problem is that their system is setup to take money from you not from them that’s why they are rich and when you call customer service they go by the numbers that are already in your statement they have no knowledge of the scam because had already happened and you are the only one that knows but the don’t know exactly wats going on in your account for sure it sounds like if they are tolled to repeatt the same thing like computer to acustomer is a waste to talk to them best is to save your receipts and if you have acces to a computer check your balances and the transaccions at all time or quit wells fargo and advise others to quit too if they don’t want to endup with the same problem,becarefull or stop been a customer from wells fargo

  6. avatarRichard King c/o Johnna Dixon says

    The situation as far as the bank acting like they’re going to do something about the wrong doings being experienced by their customers. Johnna Dixon recently discovered that her bank (Wells Fargo)has been taking $19.95 each month from her account, and at times, when there was no money in the account, costing her overdraft charges on top of the money they were taking. When confronting the bank with this issue, they conducted themselves according to the story posted, acting like another source other than themselves was responsible, passing the buck continuously in efforts to evade and exhaust any possibility of remedying the problem. The fictitious culprit was something that they made up called CaraFeesBankersInsurance, which is passed around from Wells Fargo to Chase to Bank of America to constantly keep moving so there’s more directions to point the blame to and more fingers to do the pointing. If there is someone or something that can be done about this, any information would be helpful as I’m beyond being pissed to no end and don’t know how much more wrong doings can be tolerated before irrational, involuntary but prompted by prolonged exposure to unacceptable and unaddressed violations to society are unleashed and the ones that do what they do every day without a care in the world do nothing but care because what they’ll cause wont be capable of being repaired and it rains on their parade. I’ll be smilling when that time comes.

    • avatarjudi says

      Hello Richard, I feel for Johnna Dixon. We finally got the Wells Fargo situation taken care of here but it wasn’t until I called the head office in San Francisco that we received some satisfaction. The little man doesn’t have a chance over these large conglomerates. Try the SF headquarters – let me know if there are any results. Judi

  7. avatarRene says

    Wells Fargo has stolen from me also and when confronted with the story they told me they had NO Ethics officer and would not connect me to anyone else that could help me with their fraudulent business practices. Its funny the person on the phone couldn’t even tell me if they were publicly traded — they truly are the stupidest people on earth. And this was the Customer Service Manager. No wonder these a-holes get away with it, they hire only sheep with no mental intelligence whatsoever.

  8. avatarGrant says

    Did you file a lawsuit? If so, who represented you? I have an issue that going to end up in court

    • avatarjudi says

      No Grant, we didn’t. Monica received her money back after long discussions with the San Francisco Branch of Wells Fargo.

      Sorry about what you must be going through.