Wells Fargo, NA is on the receiving end of a proposed class action lawsuit in which 10 South Carolina consumers claim the bank unlawfully disclosed their full or partial Social Security numbers in public-record legal pleadings.
Wells Fargo, NA is on the receiving end of a proposed class action lawsuit in which 10 South Carolina consumers claim the bank unlawfully disclosed their full or partial Social Security numbers in public-record legal pleadings as part of collection actions.
Citing South Carolina law, the 17-page suit, which now resides in the state’s district court, explains that consumers’ personal identifying information—such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, tax IDs, and passport numbers—must be redacted in court filings, which are considered a matter of public record. When Wells Fargo filed debt collection complaints against the plaintiffs and proposed class members, the bank certified to the court that it would comply with South Carolina’s redaction rules, the suit says. According to the lawsuit, this certification from Wells Fargo was false.
“Time and again—even after actual notice of its non-compliance—Defendant entered portions (or more) of consumer’s [sic] social security numbers into the public record,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo failed to redact consumers’ private information from court filings more than 500 times since 2016 and “made it 1,000 times easier” for a South Carolina consumer’s full Social Security number to be discovered by “thieves and other predators.” The case explains that Wells Fargo displayed the last four digits of consumers’ Social Security numbers, or the serial number portion, which the suit says is the most “difficult to guess.” If an identity thief was supplied with a consumer’s serial number from Wells Fargo, he or she could more easily ascertain the first five digits of the Social Security number, which until fairly recently related to the geographic area and age of the individual, according to the suit.
“Until the SSA randomized the process in 2011, Social Security numbers corresponded directly with where the recipient was born or was first issued a number,” the complaint explains.
The lawsuit argues that Wells Fargo “knew or should have known” that its conduct violated South Carolina law and consumers’ right to privacy yet continued to file unredacted Social Security numbers in court.