In 1983, Mike Wentz and his wife had a daughter, Amanda. So, they bought a $1,000 certificate of deposit for her. Mr. Wentz remembered making the decision.
“I have a new baby, so let me make an investment,” he recalled.
Fast forward to 2009, when Mike surprised his daughter with the CD and quickly found himself quite surprised.
“She calls me the next day, and she says, ‘Dad, I went to the bank. They don’t know anything about it,’” he said.
Mike said he logged eight years fighting Wells Fargo when he finally called NBC Bay Area Responds for help.
“I had actually tried – I hate to say this – with another local station, and they turned me down,” he said.
We stepped up. Mike showed us a CD that should have renewed every 30 months.
“It says right on here, with automatic renewal provision,” he read from the paper certificate.
Mike stopped getting statements in the 80’s, but figured as long as he kept his checking account open and held the certificate he was set.
Wells Fargo says the certificate is just a receipt. Also, it only keeps records seven years.
So, Mike gets nothing for a CD issued 34 years ago.
“I wanted to go public,” Mike insisted. “I wanted to create some noise about this.”
“His complaint was very detailed, to a ‘T,’” said Lindsey Boyd from our NBC Bay Area Responds team.
Boyd contacted Wells Fargo headquarters, while Mike kept applying pressure at the branch -- where he said workers offered the most sympathy.
It wasn’t long before the bank paid the CD in full, plus interest. It was a grand total of more than $5,000.
“He said it took him about eight years until he came to us,” Boyd said. “Once we got involved, they solved it in three weeks.”
Wells Fargo declined to discuss details, citing privacy. However, a spokesperson indicated Mike's auto-renewing CD had somehow gone dormant.
“To make sure a CD does not become dormant, be sure to keep your contact information up to date with the bank,” she wrote. “Respond to communications from the bank in a timely manner.”
Mike insists he had, and accused Wells Fargo of changing its story over the years.
“At one point they tried to tell me the CD never even existed,” he said.
Mike isn’t alone. Each year, hundreds of people file formal federal complaints about CD’s.
The trend is upward. 832 people complained to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 2017. That was more than double the number filed in 2015.
“We have received some similar questions from consumers,” said Kimberly Palmer, a Nerdwallet finance writer. Palmer said federal law only requires banks to keep records five years. So, the burden is on you to keep a paper trail.
If your account statements suddenly stop, Palmer said you need to take action.
“Immediately, you want to call your bank right away if you haven’t heard from them or if you’re not sure of the standing of your CD,” she said.
Money from dormant bank accounts is supposed to be transferred to the state’s unclaimed property division. Mike says that did not happen with his missing CD. Wells Fargo didn’t have records of that either. Yet another reason to keep your bank records yourself.
Mike Wentz is keeping his Wells Fargo account open, despite the drama. However, he does fear some bad actors in banking are pinching good savers.
“If it were me, and I worked for a bank, I would be looking into my systems to figure out why this is going on,” he said.