Wells Fargo mixes up customer statements

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2011

By Brendan Kearney
Charleston Post and Courier
Several, if not tens of thousands, of Wells Fargo customers received portions of other customers’ bank statements in the mail Wednesday, potentially a massive security breach for the San Francisco-based bank.

A spokesman at the bank’s headquarters reached Thursday morning had not heard of the problem. A Charlotte-based spokesman quoted in an ABC News 4 report on the issue said in an email this afternoon that he is still “gathering information.”

Meanwhile, customer reports were streaming in to The Post and Courier and other news outlets.

Doug Jenkins, a retired engineer who lives on Wadmalaw Island, received his bank statement yesterday afternoon, the first since Wells Fargo completed its takeover of Wachovia, Jenkins’ former bank. At least it was addressed to him.

Inside, behind an explainer cover letter, was somebody else’s statement. Jenkins thought it was a sample. But then he recognized the name on the statement, if not the account number and transactions that were also printed.

“And as it happens, I know the person, or my wife does, and I called him,” Jenkins, 74, recalled Thursday.

The same thing had happened to George Stackhouse.

“I spoke with his wife, and she said he had gone down to the bank to talk to them about this,” Jenkins said. “So I guess he was concerned about this also.”

Jenkins eventually called Wells Fargo himself and learned from the “very apologetic” woman who answered the phone that he and Mr. Stackhouse were hardly alone.

“She said that…they had mailed out 30,000 incorrect statements or statements to the wrong people.”

According to the ABC News 4 report, Josh Dunn, the Wells Fargo spokesman, wrote in an email, “I don’t have a number of customers that may have received incorrect information. But, we believe only a small percentage of customers who opened their accounts in South Carolina are affected.” Dunn said customers will not be responsible for improper or unauthorized charges to their accounts, according to the news report.

Joanne Fronabarger had the opposite experience from Jenkins last night when a woman she had never met before, Janice Thorne, called her and said she had Fronabarger’s statement as well as another stranger’s.

Fronabarger and her husband, who had recently closed their Wachovia accounts, were surprised, but the news was “not as troubling for us as for the poor person who had $150,000 in their account and Ms. Thornes is holding her statement.”

Fronabarger, a server at a downtown restaurant, has plans to meet up with Thornes, a fellow West Ashley resident, Thursday afternoon.

“We were going to stop by Wells Fargo today and file a complaint that our information was sent to someone else,” Fronabarger said, calling the situation “ridiculous.”

Check back with postandcourier.com and in tomorrow’s print editions for more on this developing story.

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him at twitter.com/kearney_brendan.