National Consumer News

Wells Fargo fined for illegally repossessing cars of the actively deployed


Clark Howard Staff

OK, talk about piling on! You already know that Wells Fargo has taken a beating over the company’s practice of opening up phantom accounts.

Then just last week we brought you a local report about the bank knowingly sticking a homeowner with costlier flood insuranceand then giving him the run around when he wanted to get the matter cleared up.

Now comes word that Wells Fargo has been sticking it to the brave men and women who serve our nation in uniform!

Wells Fargo’s latest infraction

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has fined Wells Fargo for illegally repossessing more than 400 vehicles from active duty military members.

This act was in clear violation of The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act, which requires a court order for such a repossession. The bank is now facing a $24 million fine for its wrongful actions.

In addition, Wells Fargo must now restore the credit rating of all victimized service members, plus pay each of them $10,000 along with any “lost equity in the vehicle with interest.”

The saga of Wells Fargo just keeps getting worse and worse!

Other financial protections for members of our military

If you or a loved one is a member of the military, you should know your rights so they can’t be abused. Here’s a quick overview:

Consumer Protection

  • The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act protects all active military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The act also covers lapses in health and other insurance, default judgments in court cases and limits on the amount of interest service men and women must pay.
  • The law requires lenders to cap interest rates on your outstanding loans at 6%, among other things. But you must notify your lenders of your military status.
  • You may want to put your car in storage while you’re gone. If you do, call your insurer and ask about becoming a “non-operator,” which could lower your payments.
  • Review your life insurance policy. Make sure it doesn’t contain a “war clause,” which means your company won’t cover deaths from war or combat. Most active duty members receive $250,000 of coverage from the Service Members’ Group Life Insurance Program. If you don’t already know about it, find out more at
  • Military personnel can put a “military fraud alert” on their credit reports. Service people must request them, and the alerts ensure that credit reporting companies are taking additional steps to verify a person’s identity when applying for credit. The idea is to protect deployed persons from becoming victims of identity theft. The FTC has compiled a helpful guide that details the process of putting an active duty alert on your credit records.
  • Active duty personnel can see their real true FICO score for free online by visiting
  • The certified military counselors at Clearpoint ReConnect can help you create a family budget, start a debt management plan, become a homeowner, avoid foreclosure or just get your finances in order. This service is free and confidential.

More Resources

  • – DOD online and phone help 24 hours a day, seven days a week — stateside and overseas. Call 1-800-342-9647 in the States or 1-800-3429-6477 overseas.
  • – Comprehensive site offering information on benefits for military as well as news and information.
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