On top of the record-setting $185 million fine handed down for creating millions of fake checking and credit card accounts, Wells Fargo could be responsible for defrauded customers’ inflated credit scores to the tune of up to $50 million. The more than 500,000 fake credit card accounts created without customers’ knowledge may have negatively affected credit scores, especially if customers applied for a mortgage after the dubious accounts were opened, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Wells Fargo is in hot water with customers and political leaders alike after its sales force fashioned more than two million fake accounts in the last five years in order to meet sales quotas. Roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and 565,000 credit cards were erroneously created by employees, complete with phony signatures, email addresses, and personal identification (PIN) numbers. The scam resulted in $1.5 million in overdraft and maintenance fees to customers on accounts they didn't even know about.
Following an internal Wells Fargo’s investigation this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered on Sept. 8 that the company pay a $185 million fine and refund customers $5 million. Wells Fargo said it has so far refunded customers $2.6 million in fees, with each receiving on average $25.
The first of what could be many lawsuits was filed Thursday by a company shareholder against company executives in San Francisco Superior Court. The suit accuses Wells Fargo of “unethical conduct” and wants executives to cover the government-issued fines, SFGate reported. The company has fired 5,300 employees who created the accounts and eliminated certain quotas for higher-level bank managers, but no executives have been punished.
"You should resign," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf Tuesday during a Senate Banking Committee on the scandal. "You should give back the money you took while this scam was going on and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission."
The potential harm to customers and their credit scores could be the most lethal aspect of the entire scandal. A late payment on a single bill could result in as much as a 100-point reduction in credit scores.
Wells Fargo customers can check their accounts online and make sure no unauthorized accounts are still active. They should also analyze their credit reports for any recent hits, according to MarketWatch.
Wells Fargo said in a statement on its official site that it is reaching out to customers and inviting them to review their accounts online to make sure there are no discrepancies. It's also calling its credit card customers to “confirm whether they need or want their credit card.”
If you are a Wells Fargo customer and have yet to receive a call from the bank, calling directly would likely speed up the process if you believe the fake accounts affected you.
“Whenever you suspect something is off, or you know you’re part of a case like this, it’s worth checking, even if you have checked your credit report recently,” a credit-card industry analyst told MarketWatch. “The value you can get from checking that report would outweigh any other penalty.”
Credit reports can be obtained from the three major national companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion on annualcreditreport.com.