News went public this week that Wells Fargo employees had opened millions of accounts for consumers without their knowledge or consent. Now consumers not only have to worry about criminal identify thieves, but they also have to protect themselves from profit-driven schemes by their own banks. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo's wrongdoing is not the first time a large bank has profited at the expense of consumers. In 2013, Chase and JP Morgan Chase were fined for illegal credit card practices (CFPB article here) and a year later, we learned about Bank of America's deceptive and illegal practices (CFPB article here). The worst part is when consumers are sued on accounts they never opened by either the bank or a debt buyer. You could have a judgment entered against you, and have your house and wages threatened! So how can you prevent this from happening to you? Here are a couple of tips:
- Get your free annual credit report every year. The Federal Trade Commission provides this form: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf. If you see anything unfamiliar or suspicious, SVO may be able to help.
- Freeze or block your credit so that new accounts can't be opened at all in your name. You can then lift the freeze if you want to open an account. You can learn more about that here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
- Open all mail! This may seem simple, but a lot of times we hear about people who throw away mail from unfamiliar people/companies, when these companies are trying to collect a debt against them. If you receive a strange letter in the mail that is threatening to file suit against you, you should contact an attorney.
If you yourself had a Wells Fargo account, or know someone who did, and believe the bank may have opened an account in your name without your consent, we may be able to help.