Woman denied credit, told she's dead

Woman denied credit, told she's dead »Play Video
SEATTLE -- A local woman trying to refinance her mortgage got the shock of her life when she learned her credit report had her listed as dead.

To make matters worse, the 78 year old had just survived a battle that nearly killed her.

All Ann Howe wanted was lower mortgage payments. The last thing she expected was more stress. Months earlier, she'd discovered her husband of 55 years had died in his sleep.

Then, she says, a lump in her forehead was misdiagnosed. It turned out to be cancer.

Days after cancer surgery, doctors discovered Howe needed open heart surgery. She almost died.

When she finally regained her strength, she applied for a mortgage refinance loan to reduce her payments and help her budget.

Things were going fine. Two of the credit reporting agencies showed her credit rating was close to 800. But her Experian report had a problem.

"Because somebody made a real ignorant mistake when they told Experian that I was dead," Howe said. "I mean, that was a terrible blow."

Howe's Experian credit report had her listed as deceased. One of her creditors had reported her as dead.

Correcting the mistake was an interstate nightmare that took the full-time attention of Howe's daughter in California. She sent letters, faxes, notarized explanations, long distance phone calls, but for months, she kept running into the same brick wall.

Howe's daughter, Julie Kerr, says everyone knew Howe was alive, but the bank wouldn't budge without a credit report from Experian.

"(They said) 'We don't care, we have to get a credit score and without that credit score, we can't make the loan and we can't get a credit score because you're deceased. Now we know you're not deceased, but they think you are. So we're not going to do this loan,'" Kerr said.

Kerr says she was told a correction would take 30 to 45 days, which meant Howe's loan lock would expire. Desperate, Kerr contacted the ABC affiliate in San Francisco, KGO-TV.

One phone call from the news staff did the trick. The creditor admitted its mistake, sent an apology, and within 24 hours, the credit report error was corrected.

"I mean it was just mind-boggling," said Kerr.

Howe got her loan and her good interest rate, but she's still furious.

"Because it was just stupid. And nobody should go through this," she said.

This is a perfect example of why you should check your credit reports at least once a year -- to correct any mistakes ahead of this kind of nightmare. Don't wait until you need credit.

By law, you get a free report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Just remember: the only Web site you should use to order your free report is AnnualCreditReport.Com. It's the only website that's authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.