August 3, 2005
Wells Fargo Bank's integrity in question
Federal regulators say Wells Fargo Bank jeopardized
the personal information of hundreds of thousands of
customers through a string of security breaches over
the past two years. Wells Fargo intends to profit from
the problem by offering those same customers a chance
to pay $140 a year for information they can receive free.
Is this integrity at Wells Fargo?
With your question, you forwarded a column by David
Lazarus of the San Francisco Chronicle. On July 22, he
questions the ethics of those who lose credit information,
whether from negligence or incompetence, and then offer
to these same 700,000 violated customers and others,
for $12.99 per month, a credit monitoring service.
This is gutsy, perhaps callous. Ironically, these same
customers can access identical information free, three
times per year, requesting a complimentary annual credit
report, from these organizations: Equifax, Experian and
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org),
San Diego-based nonprofit, offers valuable counsel.
Its July tip of the month: When ordering your free
credit report, it's still better to call than order
online. It's disturbing to learn that 100 imposter
domains and 233 imposter sites are interfering with
the federally mandated free credit report site. Some
of these sites are showing up in search engine results,
sometimes as paid listings that appear ahead of the
To facilitate obtaining your current credit report,
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggests:
- When phoning the toll free number (877-322-8228)
for your credit report, ask that only the last four
digits of your Social Security Number be displayed
when it is sent to you.
- If you use the toll-free number above to access
your free credit report, be aware that if you have
a strong accent or a complex last name, the automated
phone system may not work.
- If you call for your report or have it mailed
to you, ensure that your credit report is mailed
to a secure mailbox.
- Know that you are not required to give out your
e-mail address in order to obtain a federally mandated
free credit report.
- If you order a free annual credit report online,
take basic computer safety precautions. For example,
ensure that your computer is virus-free and don't
order your reports from a public computer or from
Individuals need current credit information for economic protection.
Because of the growing cottage industry called identify theft,
the risks are real, time consuming and can be costly.
But preying upon individuals' fears of identity theft to sell expensive products
that can be obtained for free is a violation of integrity.