How to get your piece of the Wells Fargo banking scandal settlement

Wells Fargo
Rick Wilking | Reuters
Wells Fargo

For some consumers taken advantage of by one of the nation's biggest banks, Monday is the last day to decline a slice of a big class-action settlement pie.

Wells Fargo customers have until May 14 to opt out of a $142 million settlement. This deadline applies to folks who had unauthorized accounts opened in their name and received a notice saying they have until May to opt out.

The bank, which is busy trying to repair its image, has repeatedly found itself in hot water in recent months. In April, it was fined by federal regulators. And earlier this month, Wells Fargo agreed to pay up following allegations that it failed to promptly disclose details about the fake accounts scandal to investors. According to a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court, its stock was trading at "artificially inflated prices."

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If you believe you were a victim of the incident involving fake accounts, visit wfsettlement.com to file a claim or ask to be excluded from the settlement. You'll have to wait to receive your cut, but there are steps you can take now, like checking your credit report.

Figure out whether you're affected

As many as 3.5 million credit cards, lines of credit and checking and savings accounts were potentially opened without consent. You could qualify for restitution if between May 1, 2002 and April 20, 2017 you:

  • Had an account opened without permission.
  • Had an application for an account submitted under your name without permission.
  • Were enrolled in Wells Fargo identity theft protection services.

If you've contacted the feds or the bank about your phony accounts, there's a good chance you're automatically included in the class-action settlement. By now, you should've received a claim form in the mail.

Not sure if you're automatically enrolled in the class-action settlement? Contact the settlement administrator (1-866-431-8549). And if you don't know whether an unauthorized account was opened in your name, call Wells Fargo Account Servicing (1-800-869-3557).

If you aren't automatically considered a class member and you need to file a claim, you must do so online or through the mail by July 7. The deadline — which was initially Feb. 3 — was pushed back to give customers more time to participate in the settlement.

"Wells Fargo and the plaintiffs' attorneys requested the extension to July 7, 2018, to fulfill a request by a group of state attorneys general to allow more time for current and former customers to file claims, and to send additional email and mail notices in order to ensure our outreach is thorough and gives people sufficient time to file claims," says Wells Fargo spokesperson Jim Seitz. "It demonstrates our commitment to make things right."

Payback for victims

Victims who paid fees associated with unauthorized accounts may receive a flat-rate fee reimbursement or payment based on the amount they were charged. Credit impact damages may also be provided to customers who ended up with a higher credit card or loan interest rate after the bogus accounts were opened.

If you were automatically enrolled in the settlement and you don't submit a claim, you'll be eligible to receive whatever is left over after other cash benefits are paid out.

Don't expect to get money you're owed right away. Class members won't get paid until appeals are resolved and the court grants final approval of the settlement.

Decide whether to opt out

If you endured hardships beyond the scope of what's included in the class-action settlement, consider consulting an attorney. For example, because the settlement is not meant to compensate customers who were denied credit outright, anyone in that boat may be better off challenging the bank on their own.

"If someone knows that they were denied housing or a mortgage or even a job and they were told that the cause of it was because of an account that wasn't theirs, than their damages would be much greater than they're going to get out of this class settlement," says Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

If you ask to be excluded from the settlement, you won't receive any compensation. You also have the option of remaining a class member and objecting to the terms of the settlement. The deadline for objecting is May 14 (if you received a notice saying that this is your deadline). If you do nothing — and Wells Fargo has no proof that you were actually harmed — you won't be getting anything.

Check your credit report

If you think your credit has been damaged, don't wait (especially if you're planning to apply for a mortgage or car loan). Get free copies of your credit reports and check for mistakes. If you find errors, you can dispute them online with each of the reporting bureaus.

"You have to check all three credit reports from all three agencies because sometimes different credit agencies can have different information," says Rachel Kampersal, marketing communications and programs associate at American Consumer Credit Counseling.

If your credit was actually impacted because an account was opened without your consent, file a claim and indicate that you're allowing the settlement administrator to take a look at your credit report. Frequently asked questions note that credit impact damages will be calculated by multiplying the "increase in the cost of credit" by the "probability that your credit score moved into a different tier."