Wells Fargo scand al: Protecting your accounts
“Can you trust your bank?” asked Jonnelle Marte in The Washington Post. It’s a fair question to ask in the wake of revelations that Wells Fargo employees opened as many as 2 million sham credit card and checking accounts for customers without their permission. The scandal hits particularly close to home for consumers, “because it wasn’t executed by sophisticated cybercriminals, but by everyday branch-level workers.” Wells Fargo’s aggressive cross-selling—a sales technique in which companies pitch existing customers on additional products and services—has been blamed for the debacle, with workers under intense pressure to meet demanding sales quotas. But the San Francisco–based banking giant “is hardly alone in aggressively pushing accounts.” Bank consumers have filed more than 31,000 complaints since 2011 about the opening, closing, and management of their accounts, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including unauthorized credit cards opened on their behalf.
Cross-selling isn’t entirely bad, said Veronica Dagher in The Wall Street Journal. For customers with brand loyalty, it can mean savings on mortgages, cheaper checking accounts, waived fees, and other perks. Using multiple services with the same bank can also simplify your financial life, making it easier to manage accounts and pay bills in one place. But “just because a company is offering to sell you another product or service, it doesn’t mean it will save you money.” Be wary of salespeople pressuring you to buy products you don’t want or need, especially if they say the offer is time-sensitive or exclusive. Make sure you understand what the base product costs, what features you’re paying extra for, and whether or not you’re paying an introductory rate that will change later. “Take the time to shop around for other offers, and don’t be afraid to say no.”
Want to know if Wells Fargo scammed you? asked Matt Krantz in USA Today. Just log into your account and make sure you recognize everything there. “You can also get a free credit report that will show all accounts in your name.” Maybe you’re looking for a new bank after this scandal, said Kristin Wong in Lifehacker.com. Why not try a credit union instead? Unlike traditional banks, which have to meet sales goals to keep investors happy, “credit unions don’t have customers; they have members.” Account holders are part owners, with the right to both vote and run for the board of directors, with each member getting a vote no matter how much he or she has invested. They’re also not-for-profit, which means there’s no incentive to push products that aren’t in customers’ financial interest. As a result, “credit unions also typically have better interest rates and fewer fees.”