12 OYS: Widow reported "deceased" by credit bureau says "I'm not dead"

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / June 3, 2014

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW) -- Debera Bennett, 60, will tell you she is very much alive, but said she is having a hard time trying to convince one credit bureau.

"A love that you'll never get back when somebody passes," said Debera Bennett.

She still fights back the grief of losing her late husband Vic, last September after 35 years of marriage.

"I just can't say enough about him," said Bennett.

Just eight months since his death, Bennett said she is still sorting through stacks of paperwork, and financial documents to sort out accounts her husband had, and ones they shared. So when she tried applying for her first credit card in her own name, it did not go well.

"I'm sitting there with a bank that has all my money and has known me for 11 years. They would not give me a credit card," Bennett said.

She said she has a credit score over 800, and was in disbelief when she found out why she was turned down.

"I was denied a card, and a couple of weeks later I get this letter saying I'm deceased," Bennett said. "I'm not dead."

Bennett said she was denied credit because one credit bureau believes she is dead. Bennett said it has been a nightmare trying to convince Experian that she is alive and well. She said even after writing letters and calling the credit bureau, the problem was still not fixed. That is when she turned to News 12 for help.

"I called 12 On My Side because I always see that you do what you say, and you take action," Bennett said.

We contacted three different credit bureaus to find out where Bennett stands. Our investigation found Experian is the only one reporting Bennett as deceased. The agency said that it will investigate and contact Bennett.

Experian did respond to our request for comment with this statement which reads, in part:

"To give you some background on how this can happen, often times a person may have a joint account with another individual, and if the other individual passes away, the lender may inadvertently report the account as being associated with a deceased individual. The other way that a person may be identified as deceased on their credit report is if the consumer's Social Security number is reported by the Social Security Administration as belonging to a deceased individual. In that instance the file is "flagged" to indicate the SSA has reported the person is deceased."

Meanwhile, the best advice when a loved one dies is to contact every creditor directly as well as all three credit bureaus.