15

About a year ago, I walked into my local Wells Fargo branch, where I have several personal and business accounts. I had several transactions to take care of and I asked the banker to be quick because I had an international flight to catch.

Despite my request, the banker launched into a sales pitch for a new credit card offer. The offer was clearly outrageous - 5% cash back on all purchases forever - so naturally I questioned her about the "all" and "forever" claims. She went back and forth with me, assuring me over and over that it was indeed all purchase categories and no time limit. It was very specific, too, for example I'd say "Are you telling me that if I spend $100 on Amazon.com I will receive $5 back?", and she'd say yes, and then I'd say "And you are telling me it doesn't expire after 6 months or something?", and she'd say no. This went on for about 15 minutes, during which I repeatedly stated that I simply do not believe the offer and need to see it in writing before I consent to anything and begged her to move on because I didn't want to miss my flight. Only after I threatened to leave, my banker agreed to move on, confirming (per my request) that she would not open the card but would instead have the credit card company send me a detailed offer letter. She then appeared to take care of my other transactions as there was a lot of typing and comments about screens taking a while to load.

A week later I came back from my trip to find the new credit card in my mail - along with a standard CC disclosure which predictably spelled out cash back terms nowhere near what my banker had claimed - and to add insult to injury, not a single one of my other transactions were actually done, including one that resulted in me not having access to my money during the trip. (If it weren't for my husband's cards, I would have been in real trouble).

Needless to say I was quite upset by it all, so I drove to the bank to complain in person. I spoke to the assistant manager who performed the expected customer service dance act. Per my request, he promised a follow up via a phone call or a letter where someone would tell me what specific measures they took to discipline the banker and/or to prevent this from happening in the future. I've never heard from them again.

(Quick research suggests that bank employees are commonly required to sign up a certain number of people to hit their performance targets, so there is clearly a conflict of interest as far as my complaint is concerned, after all, the bank is not going to punish an employee for doing as they are told).

My question is, what meaningful action can I take? In my opinion, this banker is not someone who should have access to other people's money, and I am not happy about Wells Fargo's laissez-faire attitude towards what I perceive to be outright fraud. If a regular person did this to me I could file a police report, but if it's my banker, it's just a customer service issue? Tell me it ain't so.

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    Sometimes I act taken back when the banker starts the upsell and say "the ATM doesn't say anything like that, can you act more like the machine? there was just a long line today so I came over here" it isn't to disparage the employee, its because I know that the encounters are all recorded and eventually somebody important will replace the upsell function with a machine that doesn't – CQM Feb 28 '15 at 0:24
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    You weren't the first person that Wells Fargo did this to, if you search around you will find a fair number of other people that were signed up for cards with Wells Fargo without their permission. I am kind of surprised they haven't been hit with a class action suit. – stoj Feb 28 '15 at 3:23
  • Maybe you should have said that you are recording this conversation (so that you can hold them to their word about cashback and whatnot). – tomasz Feb 28 '15 at 18:28
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    How come you're only asking this after a year? – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 28 '15 at 23:40
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    (As I noted below) This was posted almost four years ago... and since then we've all learned the truth. – Aaron D. Marasco Feb 11 at 23:23
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I would go speak to the bank manager. With Wells, you have to make sure it is the bank manager and not a service manager or something you are talking to (I learned that a few months ago).

Tell her/him exactly what happened in detail and that you want the credit card closed and the credit inquiry removed from your credit report. Further, say that once all of that is done, you will decide whether to continue banking with them and whether any legal action is appropriate.

If they give you any kind of push back, I'd get advice from a lawyer. The truth is they did open an account against your expressed wishes and it required them to check your credit so it does constitute fraud unless they can produce a signed document saying you agreed to the card.

Edit: I just saw that this happened about a year ago. It may have been easier if you had done something at the time and may be more difficult if you've used the card in the meantime.

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    "you want the credit card closed and the credit inquiry removed from your credit report", yes. +1. – ChrisInEdmonton Feb 27 '15 at 23:11
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    To clarify: I never used the card. – RADA Feb 27 '15 at 23:18
  • @RADA - Good, that might make it easier. The time that's passed may still be a factor though and it wouldn't surprise me if the bank manager asked if you recently got turned down for something because of too many open accounts or inquiries. I'm not saying this is the case but I recently had a horrible experience with Wells and I know they (A) protect their own and (B) never admit anything unless you catch them AND prove it. Even then, they seem to think the ends justify the means and they can do whatever they want as long as it turns out ok. – geewhiz Feb 28 '15 at 2:00
7

You can always cancel the card and close this account. Consider switching to a bank that has better customer service. Closing accounts typically gets a lot of attention and it's fairly likely they will contact you to reconsider and so you'll have a chance to air your grievances.

Whether they have anything to offer that would cause you to stay is for you to decide.

7

As far as the banker himself goes, it's a customer service issue. WF is not going to tell you about their internal discipline (or oughtn't, anyway), other than potentially to confirm that the banker does or does not still work there; that's the closest they should get to telling you about it. I'm a (very) former retail manager, and that's absolutely the most I'd ever do in a case like this; and trust me, even with good customer service reps, you get requests to fire someone a lot, sometimes valid, sometimes not.

You did the correct thing from your end: you brought the issue to their attention. Despite the quota, it's (hopefully) not permitted to sign people up without their permission (since that's illegal!), and I can say that in my retail experience, with these promotions with great incentive to cheat in this manner, one of the main things our loss prevention department did was to monitor data to see if people were illicitly signing people up for cards or otherwise cheating the system. That could be a very bad thing from a customer service point of view and from a legal point of view.

What you should have done (or possibly did, but it's not clear in your post) is, after you reported the issue, asked for a re-contact on a particular date in the future - not "after you've looked into it", but "Next friday I would like to get a call from you to discuss the resolution." Again, they're not going to tell you the discipline, but they should tell you at least that they've investigated it and will make sure it doesn't happen again, or similar. It's possible they will want more information from you at this point, and this is a useful way to make sure that request doesn't fall off of their plate. They should be able to, at least, tell you if there was a perceived issue on their end - it might be something meaningless to you, like "He thought you said to sign up", or something more descriptive, like "He pushed the button to send you a notice, but our computer system screwed that up and made it an application". You never know these days how easy it is to screw these things up.

Now, they certainly should have fixed the issues on your end. Hopefully they did whatever you needed them to do banking-wise, or else you withdrew your money and went somewhere else. If not, follow up with that supervisor's supervisor, or go up a level or two to a regional director or equivalent. They may not be able to cancel the card for you, but the other banking-related things they certainly should fix. The card you probably just have to cancel and be done with.

As far as the misuse of personal information, one thing I'd consider doing is placing a freeze on your credit report. Then this could never have happened - you would have to lift it to have your report pulled to be given the card. This is not free, though, so consider this before doing this.

  • Thankfully, after misbehavior by Wells Fargo and Equifax, freezing and unfreezing a credit report is now free. Hooray for silver linings! – Ben Voigt Feb 11 at 3:49
5

I believe it is so. It doesn't sound like they did anything outright illegal, just a pushy upsell. You can complain to the bank manager. If you want you can mention the employee by name (if you know who they are). Ultimately, you can change banks. From what you say it sounds like you are dissatisfied with this bank, so I think you should at least begin evaluating other banks and consider switching. You can also let your current bank know you are planning to take all your money away from them specifically because of their poor customer service.

You could consider filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleging that the bank engaged in some kind of deceptive marketing of their financial products. Of course you can also file a complaint with something like the Better Business Bureau, or even just write a negative Yelp review. But these actions won't really result in any penalty for the bank as a result of what they did in your specific case; they just express your dissatisfaction in a way that will be recorded and possibly made public (e.g., in a list of complaints) to protect future consumers.

If you're really gung-ho and have time and money to burn, you could hire a lawyer and get legal advice about whether it is possible to sue the bank for fraud or misuse of your personal information. Needless to say, I think this would be overkill for this situation. I would just cancel the credit card, tell the bank you're dissatisfied, switch banks, and move on.

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    "doesn't sound like they did anything outright illegal" they issued a card to the OP against his will. Not illegal? It should be. (Actually I thought the CARD act helped with this, but not finding this specific issue addressed.) – JoeTaxpayer Feb 28 '15 at 0:37
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    Pretty sure they would have to provide a signed application from the OP if requested by a lawyer... – Aaron D. Marasco Feb 28 '15 at 0:47
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    I'm pretty sure that issuing a credit card in someone's name without their permission is, in fact, illegal. – reirab Mar 1 '15 at 0:06
  • @JoeTaxpayer: Check the Truth in Lending Act. See here. – unforgettableid Jul 30 '15 at 14:03
  • @AaronD.Marasco: I can confirm that these days (at least since two months ago) applying for a Wells Fargo credit card in-branch does require multiple signatures on an electronic signature capture tablet. – Ben Voigt Feb 11 at 3:51

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