Phony Accounts Aren’t Just at Wells Fargo

Date: November 1, 2016      Publication: Bottom Line Personal      Source:  Robert Siciliano      Print:

Are you sure a financial institution hasn’t opened a new account for you without your permission? That would have seemed like an odd question until federal regulators recently revealed that Wells Fargo employees had secretly created more than 2 million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts in customers’ names to meet sales quotas and win bonuses. The regulators ordered Wells Fargo to pay more than $185 million in fines and penalties…plus refunds of inappropriately charged account fees.

Ways to make sure that your financial institutions (or cyberthieves) don’t open unauthorized accounts in your name…

Sign up to receive text or e-mail ­account alerts from your banks and credit card issuers. Most financial institutions let customers choose what triggers alerts, including new accounts.


Watch for a sudden uptick in junk mail, especially from lenders. This sometimes occurs after a new account has been opened, so it’s a good time to request a credit report. You can get one report for free per year from each of the three main credit bureaus at When you read it, look for new and unfamiliar accounts.

Read mail from financial institutions. If you find words such as “welcome” or “new account,” check whether an account has been opened. Wells Fargo employees sometimes used false mailing addresses, however, so check your account online, too.

Sign up for a credit-monitoring service. It can alert you to unauthorized accounts set up by bank employees, as well as those opened by identity thieves.

Source: Robert Siciliano, CEO of Boston-based and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before…Your Identity Was Stolen.