Hells Fargo

I want to share with you a Kafka-esque conversation I had today with a representative at Wells Fargo Bank.

But first, some background.

Back in December, my accountant pointed out that I'm apparently paying twice, through automatic withdrawals, for online banking each month. One payment is for $14.95 and is clearly listed as a Wells Fargo online banking fee…the other fee for $15.95 and is listed as an "Online Bill Payment Services Fee."

I called the bank and questioned them about the charges. They said that the ""Online Bill Payment Services Fee" wasn't from them. When they called the number associated with the account, they got "middle eastern music." So I had them put a stop payment on the withdrawal, effective immediately. They did that, said they would investigate the matter, and told me to call back in a couple of weeks for more details on who was taking my money.

So that's what I did. But when I called back, with my claim number and everything, the agent had no idea what I was calling about. I gave him the back story.

"Some entity calling itself  'Online Bill Payment Services" has been withdrawing fifteen dollars a month from my account," I said. 

"That is correct. We have stopped that transaction. It won't happen again."

"That's great. Who are they?"

"A bank," he said.

"Your bank?" I asked.

"Another bank."

"Which bank?"

"I can't tell you that information," he said.

"Why not?" 

"I can't answer that question," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because that's not my department," he said. "You will need to speak to another department."

"The department that answers questions?"

"I don't appreciate the tone of your voice," he said. "I will send the department a request. They will get back to you in three days. Or maybe more."

"With the name of the bank," I said.

"They might," he said. "Or they might not. They may not know, either."

I took a deep breath. "Okay. Is there anything stopping this other bank from just withdrawing a different amount of money from my account next month? Say, $15.97 or $1500?" 

"No, there isn't"

"Can't you put a stop to any automatic withdrawals from my account from that other bank?"

"No, because it's not the bank that is withdrawing the money, but rather a person or business who has an account with them."

"Okay, now we're getting somewhere," I said. "Can you tell me the person or business that is that is taking my money?"

"No," he said. 

"So how do I stop this person or business from making withdrawals from my account?

"You have to call Wells Fargo customer service and ask them to put a stop payment on all withdrawals from the person or business."

"But you won't tell me the name of the bank or the person or the business that is taking my money!"

"That is correct," he said. "You don't have to yell."

"I am closing my account," I said.

"It would be easier to put a stop payment on the person or business that is withdrawing your money."


"That is correct. Can I be of any more service to you today?"

UPDATE 1/25/2011: After that infuriating call, I took a "time out" and called Wells Fargo again. I spoke to a different representative, who was only slightly more helpful.

She was pleased to tell me they were reversing $47 in charges paid to whoever was taking my money. That's only a fraction of what I've lost, but okay, it's a step forward.

She went on to say that the withdrawal is coming from New York Clearing House on behalf of Mid-Peninsula Bank (which a quick web searched revealed was taken over by Wells Fargo in 2007).

She said that, short of me closing down my account, there was nothing they could do to help me prevent future unauthorized withdrawals from Mid-Peninsula Bank. Nor were they willing to help me figure out who at Mid-Peninsula Bank was withdrawing my money, nor were they willing to give me any information I could take to law enforcement to try to figure out who was taking my money. 

So I closed my checking account and opened a new one. But because all of our other accounts are at Wells Fargo, and I didn't want the hassle of starting anew at another bank, I ended up staying there.

I went down to my local branch and had a new checking account in about ten minutes. Even so, I am not happy customer.

19 thoughts on “Hells Fargo”

  1. I’d file a complaint against the guy you spoke with. I’ve worked at a call center, all customers are pissed, he can’t talk to you the way he did. And you might want to consider a Credit Union…

  2. Oy vey. I had my credit card hacked 20 days before Christmas. Apparently, some merchant had a block of card data compromised. They closed my account and set up a new card number after I called them. (To their credit, they did leave me several voice messages about it all.)
    My new card was scheduled to be delivered in 7 to 10 days. When I said that wasn’t very convenient with the holidays, they offered to expedite but I would have to sign for the delivery. I declined since I have a day job and couldn’t work from home that week. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have expedited the printing and mailed it USPS which would have gotten it to me in three days.
    I actually got it in a reasonable time but, a few days later, they shut the new account down and made me call in to verify my most recent purchases before reactivating it.
    Were they not expecting me to actually use the new card right before Christmas? I’m just thankful I wasn’t traveling at the time or I would have been hosed.

  3. When did real life turn into a Joseph Heller novel? or is it a mobius strip, Catch-22 or round and round and no answers for you? I don’t know what’s worse, a computer voice mail that traps you in a logic loop, press one to do nothing or press 2 to do some other nothing, or when you get an actual person, you can’t understand their accent, or they answer your question with a question and an denial and expect you to say Thank You and go away…

  4. Time to call your state’s Attorney General’s office, assuming your state is still funding an Attorney General’s office. Also, just for jollies, time to get the names of everyone up the chain of Wells Fargo, including the board of directors, and sending each e-mails once a day for at least a month, demanding a response. If there is state banking commission, ditto. Time also to call the business editors of the ten largest major newspapers and television and radio stations, as well as their consumer reporters.
    The theft and the poor service you received concerning the theft are both inexcusable. Being an absolute and total pain in the ass is completely justifiable. Sometime it’s the only way to get something done.
    (Besides, it can be interesting background to a future book or script.)

  5. You’re scaring me.
    If I didn’t need a bank for my business stuff I’d keep my cash buried in a pickle jar in the back yard. At least the yard wouldn’t charge a fee every month unless ya wanna count the mortgage.

  6. While the things that Jerry suggests aren’t bad there’s a couple of other things to do first.
    1) Your account is assigned to a manager at the branch you opened it at. Call the branch, find out who the manager is and call him/her and discuss both the fraud and the horrible customer service. If you do not get a satisfactory response ask to speak to the branch manager.
    2) Fill out a fraud affidavit at the bank. When you submit it (to the officer in part 1) insist that ALL the fraudulent charges be credited back to you account.
    3) The CS person you spoke with is mistaken. Every transaction whether paper or electronic has an internal tracking ID#. Contact the research department at Wells Fargo yourself and place a written request for the information on your transactions. They are legally obligated to provide this to you.
    Then you can start to work your way up the ladder and contact regulators. But personally I’d let them know that if this is not resolved to your satisfaction you’ll move all your accounts. (and follow through if the matter is not resolved satisfactorily.)
    Good luck.

  7. Sorry you had to go through this!
    In Canada, the banks and the media are pretty much hated about as much as they can be. As a result, the bank employees pretty much get snarky at the drop of a proverbial hat, and the management backs them up. Here, you just have to keep your cool and keep a smile in your voice no matter what, and keep persevering.
    Sometimes, if the employee can’t give you the information, it’s because there are legal issues involved. Maybe this entity that’s withdrawing your money is being sued or investigated by the bank. In that case, their lawyers would tell them not to give out any information and not to say why.
    Anyway, keep on truckin’ and the system will eventually get it right, I hope!

  8. It’s inexcusable and I’d follow through and not let the bank get away with this behavior. As other Posters suggested, contact the media, the state banking commission, Attorney General’s office – whatever department oversees the banks and the manager at your Branch.
    Bug everyone so it’s harder to cheat the next customer. Don’t they have the responsibility of refunding all fraudulent charges – especially if they refuse to give you the information as to who did it so you can take that info to the police and at least attempt to catch them?

  9. When next you speak to a Wells Fargo customer services representative, calmly mention that you are a TV writer and you are in the middle of writing a script where the hero is bedeviled by someone siphoning money from his checking account and the bank is no help whatsoever. For legal reasons, the bank is not named Wells Fargo in your script. The bank is however named for the Wells Fargo CEO and the customer services representative you are speaking with. Mark Evanier did something similar in his past.

  10. I go along with Jerry House, Lee. Press the “up” button and take it right to the top, if necessary. At the same time, have a long talk with the State Banking Commission and the Attorney General’s office. You don’t have to take this lying down.

  11. Your bank charges you $15 a month for online banking?
    Free checking accounts are everywhere. Hell, some checking accounts pay you interest.
    There’s no way I’d pay $180 a year just to bank online. That’s like a restaurant charging for salt and ketchup.

  12. Joe,
    It’s online bill pay. You pay for checks and postage don’t you? Seems to me a charge for sending out all my checks each month is reasonable. What’s NOT reasonable is letting some third party withdraw money from my account with my authorization…and then not telling me WHO they are!

  13. My bank, First American, doesn’t charge for online bill pay. I’m sure others don’t as well.
    But even more important than that, they should have fixed the problem rather than treat you like that.


Leave a Comment