ank Account Details Revealed in Statement Mailing Mistake
October 24, 2011 – Tracy Kitten, Managing Editor
Wells Fargo Bank says a printer malfunction is at the root of a bank statement mix-up that resulted in the exposure of account details for what could turn out to be thousands of Wells customers.
Josh Dunn, corporate communications manager for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, N.C., says customers with accounts opened in South Carolina and Florida “may have received, in error, pages from other customer accounts,” though the printing malfunction only affected September statements.
The malfunctioning printer is no longer in service and is being analyzed, Wells says. The printing error is not believed to be connected to Wells Fargo & Company’s [$1.4 trillion in assets] merger with Wachovia Corp., a conversion that was completed in January 2009.
“Though we believe the risk of compromising a customer’s account is low, we are providing all customers whose statements were printed by the malfunctioning printer with one year’s worth of free ID theft protection,” Dunn says. “We don’t know how many accounts were affected, but even one is one too many.”
Corrected statements are being mailed to all potentially affected customers.
ID Theft: Concerns Mount
That scheme involved five organized crime rings with ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East and resulted in financial losses exceeding $13 million over a 16-month period.
Phil Blank, managing director of security, risk and fraud for Javelin Strategy & Research, calls the Wells incident astonishing. “It represents a failure in basic ‘block and tackling,'” he says.
The cause of what Wells has defined as a printer malfunction is concerning. A system’s upgrade, such as the one Bank of America in recent weeks pointed to as the catalyst for online-banking interruptions its customers faced, could be to blame.
“It could have been some new piece of code that was introduced that obviously did not work as planned,” Blank says. “Another part of me can’t help but wonder if perhaps it is the result of a piece of malicious software introduced somehow into the Wells network. It could also have been as simple as human error not caught by a process check.”
It will likely take weeks before causes for the printing malfunction are discovered and revealed. For now, Wells must focus on the customers it has exposed to potential fraud. “They should immediately reach out to those affected, assuming that they can figure out exactly what happened here and who was affected, and set them up with new accounts,” Blank says.