Wells Fargo’s fake-account scandal may be much bigger than originally thought

It was originally estimated that Wells Fargo opened about 2.1 million unauthorized customer accounts. It now seems that number was a gross underestimate

Wells Fargo’s fake-account scandal may be much bigger than originally thought
An internal review has found that Wells Fargo’s fake-accounts problem may be even worse than originally estimated.

The nation’s largest mortgage lender has been rocked by scandal since late last year, when it was revealed that Wells Fargo employees had opened millions of customer accounts without those customers’ knowledge or approval. Estimates put the number of fake accounts at about 2.1 million.

But now it appears that number may have been a gross underestimate. The bank said Thursday that a review has found a total of 3.5 million potentially fraudulent bank accounts, according to a New York Times report. That’s 1.4 million more than previously estimated.

The review also raised yet another issue for the banking giant: unauthorized customer enrollments in its online bill-payment service. The Times reported that Wells Fargo had found more than half a million cases in which customers may have been signed up for the service without their knowledge or consent. The bank will refund $910,000 in fees and charges to affected customers.

“We are working hard to ensure this never happens again and to build a better bank for the future,” Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan said in a statement. “We apologize to everyone who was harmed.”

The review, which looked as far back as 2009, focused on Wells Fargo’s retail banking business, the Times reported. It did not include other allegations of wrongdoing, such as the bank’s alleged alteration of borrowers’ mortgage terms and charging of fees to extend mortgage applications it delayed.

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