What happens when your bank accidentally lets your personal information slip out? That’s exactly what happened with one Local 2 viewer (sort of). Kathleen sent me an e-mail after being involved in a strange situation with Wells Fargo. Before I post Kathleen’s e-mail I’ll summarize her story. Kathleen and her husband realized someone got a hold of their credit card number and was making charges on-line. Fearing the thief(thieves) would start in on their Wells Fargo bank account the couple acted quickly by closing their account and opening a new one.  The couple then received paperwork in the mail from Wells Fargo in Portland, Oregon. Here’s the rest of Kathleen’s e-mail…

This is the interesting part . . . the letter arrived with 6 pages of someone’s else account information.  Their full names, account number, receipt for a $25,000.00 transaction, a copy of a check to HCFLOSD (or something like that) for $58.00, a Relationship Change Application with their address, a customer information sheet including their social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, street address, home phone number, etc.  Also included is a form stated as Texas Only-Joint Account with Right of Survivorship with their signatures on them and dated 9/4/08 and again with social security number.  Also included is a Customer Signatures-New/Remaining Account Owner Relationships sheet which has their sigatures on them.  All pages are copies and all clearly state “WELLS FARGO CONFIDENTIAL”. 

I still have the pages.  I would think that if these would have gotten into the wrong hands, this couple would have had a really big problem complimentary of Wells Fargo.


When I called the banker who is listed on one of the forms, she was really concerned and put me on hold to talk to the manager.  She came back on the line after a few minutes and said she spoke with the manager and they would make a note of the incident and tell employees to be more careful.  I asked if she would like me to send them back to her and she said she didn’t want me to waste my money on postage and that I had a choice to shred them on my own or take them to a local branch but it was my choice and I didn’t have to.  This is a little scary.


I was a little surprised Wells Fargo told Kathleen to either shred the documents herself or just bring the papers to the nearest branch. I then called the company myself and received this response…

        Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We appreciate it.  Wells Fargo is committed to protecting customer information in every transaction, at every level of our organization. When we learn of an information security issue, Wells Fargo has a thorough investigation process. We immediately take action to determine what happened and make sure the customers’ accounts are protected and safeguarded. By continually re-enforcing our policies we can limit the risk. The incident you provided us is highly unusual, and we regret that it happened. However, we cannot discuss the specifics of this incident for reasons of customer confidentiality and security. We also are not able to detail our security policies and procedures.

      We are directly communicating with our customer about this matter. If we are informed that someone has confidential customer information that does not belong to them, our primary focus is on making sure the customer’s accounts are safe and secure. In general, we also will ensure that any customer information held by someone other than the customer is destroyed. The specific action we take depends on the situation.

Helen K. Bow, APR
Assistant Vice President
Regional Banking Communications

I understand how frightening and frustrating it is to have your identity stolen. I had my debit card number stolen a few years back. Turns out a convenience store I went to every day was the culprit (yes, I release the store itself can’t be a culprit). Seriously, you would have thought the clerk would have taken a moment of pause before  stealing the card number of an investigative reporter who is in the store on a daily basis. The idiot even used to ask me, ‘how do you get all that information for your stories?’ Here’s what happened…have you ever had trouble swiping your card? The magnetic strip is worn or the machine isn’t reading it properly. So the clerk just manually enters the number into the machine and, viola!, the transaction goes through. This is what happened to me. I swiped my card and it worked fine, but the clerk jotted down my card number off the receipt the store keeps for its records. Over the next two days that clerk would manually enter my card number into the machine to make it appear like it was a new a purchase. Long story short, $2,000 dollars vanished from my bank account in two days. When I saw a $2,000 hole in my account I freaked out and stormed into my local branch. Fortunately I had established a relationship with the branch manager who quickly moved to help me. I asked if she could tell from the transactions if the card was swiped or manually entered. At this point I knew I had not lost my card and was worrying it had been cloned. She figured out the card number had been manually entered. The clerk, again not the sharpest knife in the drawer, didn’t think the location and time of these transaction are also recorded by the bank. Figuring out who made the transactions wasn’t exactly rocket science at that point. As for the clerk, he became a guest of the state. The point of this rambling anecdote and Kathleen’s story should serve as a reminder to take precautions with all your accounts. First, check your bank account, credit card account, etc. on a regular basis. I look at mine once a day since this happened. If you check your balances regularly you’ll spot strange transactions quickly and clamp down on the problem before it spirals out of control. Put fraud alerts on all your accounts. Check your credit report at least once a year to make sure no one is opening accounts under your indentity. Also, whenever you open an account with a bank, make sure your establish a relationship with the manager or a have a bank officer’s name attached tyo your account. This goes a long way when you need help because you’re no longer just a bank account number, you’re a person with a face.

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