Sunday, April 29, 2012
Wells Fargo Has Been Billing Me For "Credit Defense" Program I Never Signed Up For
Consumerist reader Andrea has had checking and credit card accounts at Wells Fargo for several years, but she recently noticed that somewhere along the line the bank had enrolled her in something called "Credit Defense," which has been quietly siphoning off a small percentage-based fee every month. And even though Wells could offer no proof that Andrea had ever opted into the program, the bank would not refund her money.
Per the Wells Fargo website, Credit Defense is a service intended to pay a fixed amount to your credit card account in the case of involuntary unemployment, disability or hospitalization. To pay for the service, Wells charges a fee of $.89 per $100 of a customer's ending monthly balance. So if you have a balance of $1,000, the bank tacks on a fee of $8.90 for that month.
"I never, ever would have signed up for this," Andrea tells Consumerist. "Both the Credit Defense people and my bank have failed to furnish me with any proof that I enrolled in the program."
When she contacted Wells Fargo, Andrea says the bank initially shrugged and claimed that Credit Defense is actually operated by a third-party company. So instead of refunding her the fees, the bank initiated a charge-back and issued her a new card. But even after getting her new card, she was still seeing charges for the Credit Defense program.
Andrea called the 1-800 number given for Credit Defense number to request a refund but — in spite of the lack of evidence that she ever chose to be in the program — was told the best that could be done was a refund of two months' fees.
When she attempted to escalate her request, she was told that someone would get back to her within five business days. No one did.
We were able to put Andrea in touch with someone at Wells Fargo who was able to review her situation. The good news is that Andrea has now received a refund for all the Credit Defense fees that she'd been charged. The not-as-good news is that we don't really know how this happened, as Wells says it can not comment on the case because of customer confidentiality rules.
"It's hard for me to pick a 'worst thing' about being defrauded of about $650 dollars from my own bank," writes Andrea. "But if I had to, I'd pick the fact that this supposedly third-party program that Wells Fargo claims no responsibility for is listed under 'fees' on my bank statement. This would lead most consumers to believe both that the bank does, in fact, administrate the program (which it clearly does not) and that it had something to do with actual credit defense instead of siphoning off money into an insurance program."
A Google search for Wells Fargo Credit Defense turns up an awful lot of unhappy customers and at least one law firm that appears to be prepping a possible legal action over the program.
"I wonder how many other Wells Fargo customers are enrolled in this program without their knowledge?" asks Andrea. "I'd suggest that other consumers check their credit card statement to make sure they are not enrolled."
Update: The "Credit Defense" program is being discontinued by Wells Fargo at the end of April.