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Advice on Incorrect Reporting By A Creditor

My credit card company wants me to send a proof of my husnad's death certificate to them. Um..he is very much alive!

Hi Bill, I am having a problem with WaMu credit card. I received a letter from them saying to send a proof of death certificate to them about my husband. Um..he is very much alive and I have no idea where they got that from. I didn't receive any statements from them, even after telling them he was alive. Now, they are telling me we owe almost $2,000 to bring the account up to par. I called and they said the only thing they could do is take $600 out of our checking account until it was paid off. I'm at my wits end with this company. We have never been late and have always paid over the minimum payment. Can you please help?

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Bill's Answer
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The situation that you describe, in which a creditor erroneously believes that a consumer has passed away, is not uncommon. In fact, I have seen similar cases on several occasions in my years working in the financial services industry. Generally, the problem begins with a simple data entry error on the creditor’s part, with one of the creditor’s employees incorrectly noting that a cardholder is deceased. Once this information is entered into the creditor’s computer system, the consumer can face an uphill battle in having the error corrected, as many credit card companies can be monolithic and lumbering organizations. As you experienced, even after informing the credit card company that your husband is alive and well, they apparently did not correct the error, as you still did not receive any statements from the creditor. To learn more about credit and credit cards, I invite you to visit the Bills.com Credit Resources page.

At this point, the creditor may or may not have corrected the information in its computer system regarding your husband’s vitality. If the creditor has not updated the information, or if it has only made correction in some of its records, the best option available to you may be to stop making payments on this debt. The credit card company may still believe that your husband is deceased, and may therefore take no action to collect on the account. However, if it has updated its records, it may commence collection action against your husband which could damage his credit rating and result in annoying collection calls. Also, even if the creditor believes that your husband is dead, it may contact you asking you to pay this debt for your “late” husband. While you are probably not legally obligated to pay a debt that is only in your husband’s name, collectors may try to persuade you that paying this debt is “the right thing to do.” The best course of action may be to cease communication with the creditor, stop making payments, and wait to see what action the creditor takes to collect on this debt.

If you determine that the creditor has updated its files to reflect that you husband is living, or if you decide that you want to resolve the debt anyway, you should again contact the creditor to ask them to help you in bringing the debt current. While I know that you have had no luck working with the creditor to date, hopefully if you explain to the creditor that the delinquency on this account is the result of an error made on its part, the creditor will offer more flexible options to help you pay the account current. If the creditor is not willing to work with you, you may want to consider alternative options, such as enlisting the help of professional debt relief organization. Various programs, such as Consumer Credit Counseling (CCCS) and Debt Negotiation are available to consumers struggling to repay their unsecured debts. For more information about the options available to consumers struggling to repay their debt, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com Debt Help page.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving this problem, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.

Best,

Bill

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