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Where’s refund, Wells Fargo?

Where’s refund, Wells Fargo?
October 06
10:00 2016

BY CASH MICHAELS 

FOR THE CHRONICLE

If Wells Fargo says it has been refunding fees to customers who were scammed with false bank and credit card accounts they never asked for, then “Ms. Jones” is still waiting for hers.

In fact, she’s waiting for much more than that.

“It’s just been a mess, a big mess,” exclaimed the former customer who asked that her real name not be published.

The Winston-Salem woman alleges that three years ago, the bank began charging her fees on a credit card account in her name that she knew nothing about, and when she tried to straighten it, out she got the run around.

It was mid-2013 when Jones recalls getting a telephone call at work telling her that she needed to make a minimum payment of $167.00, or pay the balance on the account with a $6,000 line of credit.

Jones provided The Chronicle with documentation – notices from Well Fargo Card Services to her saying “YOUR ACCOUNT IS PAST DUE” and “THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO COLLECT A DEBT.” One of the first notices she received showed there were no payments made on a $665.30 previous balance, in addition to $235.90 in cash advances, $77.50 in fees and $14.96 interest charged, totaling $993.71 owed.

By June 2013 that balance had swollen to $1,364.91, stuffed with numerous “LATE” and “OVERDRAFT PROTECTION” fees, in addition to interest on the debt at just under 24 percent.

“I was baffled because I didn’t have a Wells Fargo credit card,”  Jones recalled. Working near High Point, Jones said she went to a Wells Fargo branch there in hopes of straightening the misunderstanding out. But she says she was told they couldn’t tell her anything, except that she had to make a payment on the $1,364.91 balance in order to keep her credit in good standing. So she reluctantly did that, hoping to eventually correct the situation.

Jones says she then went to a branch closer to where she lived, hoping to get the assistance she needed, but no one there could tell her anything. However, she did overhear a Wells Fargo representative, on a call apparently to the parent company regarding her plight, saying, “That’s going to be our problem because we don’t have anything signed by her.”

Jones then recalled a Winston-Salem branch near where she got her car serviced. She scheduled an appointment to meet with the branch manager. But on the day of the appointment, Jones arrived, only to be told that the manager she was scheduled to meet with was on vacation. Frustrated, “Jones” filed “a notice to the Better Business Bureau,” and then went back to another High Point branch.

Still finding no assistance, Jones decided to close all of her Wells Fargo accounts, including the erroneous credit card account, paying off what was owed, but also filing a complaint saying that someone else opened the credit account in her name without her knowledge or approval.

One of the High Point bank officers did help Jones file the complaint with Wells Fargo and promised an investigation, but also cautioned her, “You’ll never know who did this because they don’t release that information.”

While there, Jones says she was put on the phone with another Wells Fargo representative about the matter. She told the rep that she also wanted a letter from the company con-firming that she closed the account, and to issue her a refund from a line of credit.

At the end of June 2013, Jones received a form letter from Wells Fargo Consumer Credit Solutions stating that June 27, 2013 – the date of the letter – “we have closed your above-referenced credit card account as you requested.”

But while Jones did get the letter, her refund check never came, despite what the Wells Fargo rep promised on the phone. Jones says she was told both documents would be in the same envelope, but in fact, she was later told, the letter and the check would be coming from two different places, and the check never came.

After waiting two to three weeks, Jones went back to the High Point branch to complain, and within three days, she finally got a check for just over $7. “Jones” was upset that if she had been short 7 dollars in a payment, the bank would have demanded full payment immediately or charge a late fee, but when the tables were turned, Wells Fargo took close to a month, without reason, to resolve the matter.

That was three years ago. Fast forward to today, and Jones sees news of the current Wells Fargo scandal where 5,300 employees were fired for fraudulently opening over 1.5 million erroneous bank and credit card accounts in customers’ names over the past five years, forcing them to pay fees on accounts they knew anything about.

Published reports say Wells Fargo collected over $2 million in false fees as a result from over 550,000 customers. A spokesperson for the company told The Chronicle that virtually all of the affected customers were refunded an average of $25.00 per.

But Jones knew she was owed much more than just fraudulent fees charged. She had been forced to pay off over $1,300 on a credit account she never opened.

Three weeks ago, she went back to the High Point branch, with her documentation from three years earlier, to file another complaint, wanting all of the money she paid, plus interest. The branch manager stated that she would also indicate that if Jones’ credit was affected, it should be corrected. She says she was told by a bank officer, who remembered Jones from three years earlier, that she would be contacted.

Someone from the company named “Shawna” did eventually call her. Jones says Shawna told her the original complaint was investigated in 2014, but no fraud was found in someone else using her name to open a Wells Fargo credit card account. Shawna added that a new probe was underway given her most recent complaint, and that Jones would be getting a letter from the company within two weeks.

In the interim, a friend at church showed Jones The Chronicle’s Sept. 22 article on the Wells Fargo scandal, where two Winston-Salem branch managers insisted that none of the false accounts were opened in this market.

“That’s not true because I am a victim,” Jones says. “It does affect people in North Carolina, but maybe they don’t know who to contact, ashamed because they did not pay close attention to financial statements as they should have, no longer having documentation to validate their claim or because Wells Fargo is so large.”

In an effort to seek further assistance, Jones says she’s also sent letters of complaint to State Sen. Paul Lowe of Forsyth County, and U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] and Elizabeth Warren [D-Massachusetts], who sit on the Senate Banking Committee currently investigating Wells Fargo. An aide from Brown’s office, as well as an aide to Lowe, contacted Jones to follow-up at press time.

If you are, or were a customer of Wells Fargo bank, and you feel that you were a victim of an alleged account scam by the company, please contact us at The Chronicle at news@nullwschronicle.com and tell us your story.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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