Action 9: Woman says credit bureaus believed she was dead

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Kim Chandler was alive, but the credit bureaus didn't believe her.
 
When she went to put her student loans in her own name, she says, “The banking manager told me he was sorry to be the one to inform me, but that I had been deceased.”
 
She didn't even know that was possible.  "It was a shock when they first handed it to me -- to see deceased by my name.  Because I'm very alive."
 
But not on paper, which meant no credit score, which meant no auto loans, no home loans, no refinancing, and no credit cards.
 
"On all three credit bureaus, I'm gone,” she said.
 
According to various websites, banks, credit card companies, the big three credit bureaus, and the Social Security Administration declare at least 1,000 people dead by mistake every month.  SSA spokesperson Patti Patterson defends that agency, saying, "I do not have estimates on the number of people Social Security mistakenly declares dead each year but I can tell you that type of error is not common.  When it does happen, we work to reinstate all benefits and correct our records as soon as possible.  Social Security receives death notifications from various sources including state authorities who issue death certificates, funeral home, other federal agencies such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and individuals reporting the death of a family member." 
 
Philadelphia consumer protection lawyer Jim Francis has gotten national attention for helping clients with, what some call, "death by credit bureau."  He says do three things if it happens to you: "Check your report, see how it's being reported, and dispute that with the credit bureau."
 
More specifically:
Get a copy of all three credit reports.
See if you can tell if the mistake happened with your mortgage, auto loan, credit card or something else.
Fight it.
If the credit bureaus still declare you dead, you may need a lawyer.
 
Chandler contacted Action 9.  "My new boss is the one who said, "Hey, you should email Action 9."  I was like, 'You know, I've heard that before,'" she said.  Action 9 got in touch with her bank, Bank of America, because that's where the glitch seems to have started.  It's not clear why, especially because Chandler says she had an active checking account with the bank at the same time.  So, obviously, part of the company knew she was alive.  About one week after we got involved, it got resolved.  When asked, "So you're alive again?"  Chandler said, "I'm alive ... It feels good ... among the living."
 
She doesn't know how she even ended up in this mess, except, years ago, she co-signed on a loan for someone who later died.  Maybe their financial information got mixed up.  She may never know.