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“there’s a woman somewhere in the area who has a driver’s license with all of my personal information but her photo instead of mine”

by Prince Of Petworth March 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm 37 Comments

help id theft
Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

Monday night, I noticed a strange deposit of $20 cash into my Wells Fargo checking account, followed quickly by a $1,800 cash withdrawal. Cue panic mode.

Yesterday was spent trying to sort out what happened, and it boils down to there’s a woman somewhere in the area who has a driver’s license with all of my personal information but her photo instead of mine, and she has memorized my signature (I have a copy of the withdrawal slip she signed, and it fully freaked me out – I can send you the photo of it next to mine if you’re interested but do not want that on the internet, please).

I’m doing everything I can think of to protect myself. I’ve changed all logins for credit cards, had Wells Fargo change all of my account numbers, and I put a 90-day freeze on my credit with all three bureaus. I already had a LifeLock account, which notified me on Monday that some information about me had been sold on the deep/dark web.

Wells Fargo has been very weird about the whole thing. I had a 20 minute call with them Monday night that my branch said on Tuesday they could not see a record of happening. The online record showed that both fraudulent transactions occurred at a branch in Aspen Hills, MD, but when I went there and had a contentious turned friendly conversation with the “store” manager he told me the withdrawal happened in McLean, VA. The claims department on their 800 number told me the fraud department handles this, but that I’m not allowed to contact the fraud department. And now they keep sending me emails about how I can prevent this from happening again.

I’d really like to connect with other PoPvillers on what else I should be doing and commiserate if this has happened to others. I’ve never had my identity stolen before and feel really weird about it.”

  • Yikes, I’m really sorry this happened to you. If you haven’t already, contact your state consumer protection office (you can look it up on usa.gov). They will have a law enforcement reporting mechanism–don’t trust the bank to do their due diligence on this. Unfortunately, you need to be your own advocate for ensuring this gets dealt with swiftly and your credit. etc. isn’t screwed up as a result.

  • FridayGirl

    I am so sorry you’re going through this. That is terrifying, especially the part about the signature. I’ve personally never heard of that happening.
    I hate to send you to another Wells Fargo branch, but I’ve had nothing but trouble with the 800 hotline and their fraud department. If you happen to live within reason of the U Street branch (next to the Trader Joe’s) they have some real take-no-shit employees who might be able to help. I also agree with binntp about trying to find a law enforcement solution to this. They may be able to access ID records that might give a hint as to who bought your information.

  • Ian

    They will catch her eventually and she will plead guilty to tailgating and jaywalking. In exchange for her guilty plea, the greater charges of identity theft and fraud will be dismissed.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Very sorry to hear about this. I had my identity stolen while I was under contract to buy my house. It was awesome.
    The US Secret Service (yes, really) and the Federal Trade Commission both have useful resources for victims of identity theft. One of the first things you’ll need to do is download and fill out a form called Affidavit if Fraud and Forgery (or something like that), have it notarized, and take it to Wells Fargo. You’ll also want to file a police report. The person who stole my identity was part of a large identity theft ring (a well known one which you may have read about in the Washington Post or elsewhere a few years ago), the guy was finally busted for stealing somebody else’s identity and the Feds learned at that time that I was one of his many victims.

  • textdoc

    Yikes — that’s really scary.
    Do you know what state issued this fraudulent driver’s license? (Assuming it’s a legitimate license, not a fake one?) Seems like notifying the relevant DMV/MVA would also be good.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Yes, follow up on the license. In my case, the guy had a fake (NOT DMV-issued) license, which was a huge relief. All I had to do was close about 10 accounts I didn’t open and convince a hospital who was billing me tens of thousands of dollars that their patient (ID thief injured in car accident) was not actually me, and write an unusually long and complicated explanatory letter to my very diligent mortgage lender (fun!).
      If she has successfully obtained a real license with your info on it, that means she has lots of additional info on you (SSN, birth certificate or fake, etc), and also means that you could have a real legal mess if she is arrested for something *else* and successfully passes herself off as you.

  • Admo_Anon

    Terrible. I’d also call the DMV, and advise them what happened so that they have a record of it. I had a similar thing happen with Chase (not the ID fraud), and it was a bank employee who used an old deposit slip, and changed routing numbers so it looked like the money was withdrawn on the west coast ( I was in NYC at the time), but then it turned out once Chase sorted it all out it had happened in a Manhattan branch. Chase was pretty great, and very aggressive (he was caught and went to jail). But definitely report it to the police, and get a police report number for reimbursement from the bank and your own reporting issues (IE taxes if this costs you any money) and if the transaction occurred in the bank, they should have footage of the person as a way to fully prove it wasn’t you. It also seems like Wells Fargo is not being too helpful, so I would keep this one moving up the management chain, and also post a complaint on all their social media accounts-in my experience, businesses tend to respond very quickly on things like this. And in spite of what they said, if you can get a number for the fraud department, I’d call. That sounds very suspicious to me that they don’t want you calling them, and if you are further frustrated by them, an Ombudsman complaint is a helpful tool to get things moving.

  • Morton

    This story and all recent news about Wells Fargo’s inability to provide even the basics in banking and security should prompt all readers to close their accounts. They have a systematic problem with fraud and abuse.

    • SW 20011


      I will never do business with another large bank like Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, etc, as long as I’m alive.

      • TJ

        Fully agree with this —stay away from large banks. They probably also are robbing with fees.

    • A D

      I just had my credit card number stolen (not identity). Capital One was extremely helpful and it only took 20 minutes to sort things out.

      Maybe once the more pressing identity issues are taken care of think about switching to a more responsive company, not Wells Fargo.

      • DK

        I second Capital One – they are great when it comes to everything, but especially fraud! I’ve had my credit card number stolen twice with them and they’ve handled it so well.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      This is not the first time I have seen this advice, and while well intentioned it’s not very realistic. Our mortgage is with Wells Fargo and we just refinanced in July 2015. There’s no reason to do so again at this point. I imagine we’ll get rid of them when we sell the house.

      • Anonymous

        Advice is never realistic for *everybody*, we know this.

      • Anon Spock

        Suggesting you should close your account probably didn’t transfer over to a mortgage. You can’t just close it nor can someone steal money from it. Apples and oranges as they say.

      • Truxton Thomas

        I believe deposit accounts was the point. No one has control over who sells and buys their mortgage.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        Here, but I said “This is not the first time I have seen this advice…” and I meant literally someone tried to tell me to close my mortgage account by refinancing.

    • Michael Pierce

      +1. Wells Fargo clearly does not care one bit about the security of their customers’ accounts, after what happened recently under their watch. I wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole, and I can’t believe they’re still in business.

  • Anon Spock

    Have you reached out to your dmv? Maybe they can tell you what info she used to obtain the id in the first place or put a lock on anyone getting an id under your name for some time.

  • skaballet

    Ugh-this is the worst. I’m so sorry. I broke up with wells fargo years ago when their fraud dept insisted that something which was fraud was not since all the information matched mine except email. They are the worst.

    • FridayGirl

      Ugh at Wells Fargo! I had the opposite problem recently because they were OVERREACTIVE to fraud. They made my account inaccessible for 2+ weeks because they thought the money I had transferred from my other bank was fraudulently transferred. Even though I was like, “No, that was me.” I’m amazed they can’t seem to get it together.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, this is not the first thing you need to do to fix your problem, but I would echo what a few others have said and stop doing business with Wells Fargo. They’ve just done too many things wrong from top to bottom to keep my business when there are so many better (even if just slightly) options so readily available.

  • Kathrrn-DC

    Wells Fargo bought out my bank several years ago, so I am currently stuck with them. They kept all of the features of my really great free checking account, so I haven’t tried to move yet. But one precaution I did take was to move the linked savings account from WF to an online provider, and I keep the bare minimum in checking to cover expenses. This way, if something does happen, the fraudsters aren’t going to get the bulk of my money.

  • anonymous

    First, I am sorry this is happening. I dread something like this happening and have a mini-freakout each time I see a routine update from my identity theft service. A guy my brother knew had a really awful experience with ID theft and ended up with a very stressful year (yes, a year!) of clearing everything up and wasting many hours on the phone with various entities. It feels like you really are on your own when this happens, and based on your lackluster experience with Wells Fargo, it’s not encouraging. WF- and others- need to develop a better system to aid victims of ID theft rather than toss you around to people who don’t know what they’re doing and give the wrong information/fail to document. My only advice is to take it one step at a time. It sounds like you’re already being very proactive in getting things straightened out.

  • ah

    Have you called the police as well? They might get WF to talk a bit more.

  • Elle

    I’m sorry this happened to you! My identity was stolen in December–someone was able to open two store credit cards in-store locally (MD) with my information, so I assume they have a similar false ID. It’s been a lot of hassle, but has become less terrifying over time, which is the main consolation I can give you. Definitely file the identity theft affidavit with the FTC that someone mentioned, and try for a police report (the First District substation wouldn’t take mine without the credit card statements, which I didn’t have….). Then you just have to stay vigilant. I’d also recommend a full credit freeze vs. the 90-day one, unless you’re actively applying for credit. A full freeze is $10 per credit bureau but free if you’ve filed a police report and mail in the paperwork to prove it.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Agreed on freeze rather than just 90-day hold, unless you intend to apply for new credit soon.

    • Anon Spock

      There is also a 7yr enhanced stop that is free. Just need to send in a form.

  • Lauren

    Sorry this is happening! So scary and frustrating that Wells Fargo is running you around in circles. You should definitely be able to contact the Wells Fargo fraud division – I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t talk to you. It may take all day, but start calling around until you get to the right person who wants to investigate rather than sell you more protection.

    This is a really useful site run by the FDIC to help people who’s been the victims of identity theft and credit fraud: https://identitytheft.gov/.

    You should definitely report it to the police as filing a police report is critical to resolving the false bank withdrawal and other accounts they may open going forward.

    I would call and have each of your banks and credit cards put a secret verbal password on your account that has nothing to do with your mother’s maiden name or basic info, since she likely already has all that.

    It’s a harsh step but you can put a full freeze on your credit through the 3 reporting bureaus, which is free once you have a police report I believe. It’s worth doing because it means no one can open any account or get a loan using your SS # no matter how much info they have (and I think thieves often give up once they run up against this). It means you will have to call and temporarily unfreeze the accounts anytime you want to get a car loan or open a credit card, but provides the highest level of protection.

    • My password is not actually SECRETWORD

      I once put a verbal password on my Verizon account, and the next time I called they didn’t ask for it. I said, “You’re not supposed to discuss my account unless I provide the password, you should have asked me for a password.” Agent’s reply was to ask, “Is SECRETWORD still your password?”

  • Hill Denizen

    Yikes. I once had checks stolen (new account open, never got the checks, apparently bank didn’t cancel the right ones, a few months later, huge withdrawals from my account). It was really freaky. I don’t remember how well they forged my signature, but it was really freaky to see the person’s name on the back of the check. It just made me really pissed off that someone would so blatantly steal from an innocent person. I probably should’ve been more worried about them having my home address. Schwab immediately refunded me the money and switched my account numbers, but said they don’t go after the thieves, they just cooperate if I wanted to get my local law enforcement involved. They were really nice about the whole thing though.

  • A

    So sorry, that is awful!

    Question for everyone. If you have no intention of opening up a new line of credit anytime soon, is it a good idea to put a freeze on your credit to prevent something like this from happening? I am vigilant about checking my bank account and credit cards but have heard so many horror stories about identify theft.

  • LedroitTigah

    This is truly one of my worst nightmares… ugh, I’m so sorry about this.

  • BOAcustomer

    If Wells Fargo doesn’t address it fully and in the manner you think is necessary, definitely issue a complaint to the CFPB as well (consumerfinance.gov). They are required to respond and follow up within like 11 days or something. I have only had positive experiences with it thus far.

  • MLEinDC

    Hi guys – OP here. Thank you all for the suggestions and for the sympathy! I sincerely appreciate your comments. I will be breaking up with Wells Fargo ASAP. They acquired my previous bank, and I let intertia take hold. No longer.

    For those who lauded CapitalOne: That’s awesome. A dear friend is pretty high up in their fraud division in our area, and I will pass along the applause to him! I will also be switching my checking to them.

    I feel like I’ve been living out the world’s lamest episode of Law & Order these past few days, featuring me as the novice detective. And I don’t even get to hang out with Chris Noth. Anyway, I plan to do all of what you guys have suggested and will hope this woman has no more ways to wreak havoc on me financially. Time will tell!


  • terry hiil

    I’d suggest closing all Wells Fargo accounts considerate of the responses thus far from same, and I’ve had about 3-4 customer service experiences with Wells Fargo entailing me repeatedly contacting them about each issue due to non responsiveness, displays of dismissiveness about a concerns of sharing beneficiary information from my account to an individual who did not know such information and yet shared same with me; responses reflecting they’d not read my concern. It’s also significant that Wells Fargo has a history of poor customer services dating to when they purchased another bank thereby they when “Wachovia” purchased Wells Fargo, the decision was made to rename to “Wells Fargo” as Wachovia, the purchaser had a historic and well documented history of poor customer service. Couple that with the most recent illegal acts of Wells Fargo creating accounts from customers without their knowledge and consent = Don’t expect Wells Fargo to be an active or exercise reasonableness in assisting you.

  • anon

    This happened to me in December. The Secret Service financial crime division reached out to me. Feel free to contact me i can let you know all the steps I had to take. This is very common, people buy blocks off info from the dark web buy stuff (cars, phones, etc) and send them overseas, according to the agent I worked with.


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