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Wells Fargo glitch empties bank accounts

Wells Fargo Post Higher Than Expected Quarterly Earnings
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

It’s the stuff of nightmares: You hand over your debit card to pay for a cart full of groceries, try to cover lunch for you and a friend or attempt to withdraw some pocket money from an ATM only to discover your card was declined. A quick check of your account shows you have a balance of zero—or worse, you are seriously overdrawn.

Only, for some Wells Fargo customers, this was no bad dream.

Customers ‘Angry’ Over Double Bill Payments

On Jan. 17, an internal processing error caused some Wells Fargo customers’ online bill payments to go through twice. For many, the glitch caused panic and even temporary financial hardship. One Twitter user posted that the error wiped out her savings account:

https://twitter.com/TheresaCreates/status/953771257941520384

Another Wells Fargo customer had her property taxes withdrawn twice! Those payments are usually pretty large, so you can imagine how a double payment would wreck havoc on your bank account balance.

What seemed to concern and frustrate customers even more was the apparent lack of transparency and communication on Wells Fargo’s part. Customers took to social media to complain about long wait times when they attempted to reach customer service:

This Twitter user suggested that the bank should have notified customers about the glitch:

Frustrations mounted when people did get through to customer service, only to be told there was no clear timeline as to when the issue would be resolved:

https://twitter.com/kmpoor10/status/953790009194287104

One Twitter user even suggested that Wells Fargo customers not even take the time to call the bank about the glitch:

https://twitter.com/TheBlacDaria/status/953784813156257792

Wells Fargo Finally Reaches Out To Customers

At nearly 8 p.m. on Jan. 17, the bank posted a brief update to Twitter and Facebook informing customers that they were aware of the issue and working to resolve it:

The following day, the bank reported that the error had been resolved. Executives declined to tell CNN how many customers were affected.

In a statement to The Statesman, Wells Fargo communications manager Hilary O’Byrne said that customers will not be responsible for fees and charges caused by the error.

“We are aware of the online Bill Pay situation which was caused by an internal processing error,” O’Byrne said. “We are currently working to correct it, and there is no action required for impacted customers at this time. Any fees or charges that may have been incurred as a result of this error will be taken care of. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Wells Fargo had already been in the news in recent months for creating fake accounts and illegally repossessing hundreds of vehicles belonging to active military personnel. These legal troubles have resulted in a significant decline in revenue. The cost to the bank of this most recent glitch remains to be seen.

Even though Wells Fargo stands to be a big beneficiary of recent federal tax changes, the company announced that it plans to close 800 branches by 2020. The company said the closings are a result of customers’ preference to do banking online. But Wall Street analysts think the cuts could be an attempt to reduce costs to pay for legal expenses.

Will Customers Stick With Wells Fargo?

Along with taking a hit for fees, the financial institution may lose customers over this recent glitch. Los Angeles singer-songwriter Cindy Alexander has been a Wells Fargo customer for 30 years. Her account became overdrawn by $800 as a result of the error.

“I started transferring money out of my children’s savings account to cover it,” Alexander told CNNMoney.

Getty Images | Spencer Platt

Alexander proceeded to wait on hold for 90 minutes before reaching customer service. And now she plans to take her business elsewhere.

“The money is back, but I’m done with them,” she said. “There’s enough stress in life financially. To have your bank make it harder is inexcusable.”

Were you affected by this bill payment processing glitch? Will you switch banks because of it or will you stick with Wells Fargo?

About the Author

Tricia Goss

Tricia is a professional writer and editor who lives in North Texas with her family and one smelly dog. She is a wannabe problem solver, junk food maven professional coffee practitioner, web guru and general communicator. More.

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