ORLANDO, Fla. - A credit bureau mistake wiped out a local woman's good credit and threatened to wreck her finances for months. The bureau was reporting her death, and that one mistake could affect hundreds of records.
Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich took action for her and discovered information that can help consumers protect their good credit.
Sylvia Stackhouse applied for a credit card and never expected the response that arrived by mail. Her credit application was rejected because the bureau thought she had died.
“I thought 'Geez that is going to be a shock to my friends and my family,'” Stackhouse said laughing.
But then she read the details in the letter. Experian, one of the big credit bureaus, was reporting her deceased. So any credit application could be rejected.
“I don't like sloppy things when you're fooling with my money,” Stackhouse said.
She called Experian's dispute number but never reached anyone and the automated recording wanted her Social Security number.
“So, I never got through to anybody, so that's when I said, 'OK, I'll contact Channel 9,’” Stackhouse said.
Action 9 checked credit bureau complaints, and it's not uncommon for bad keystrokes and human error to trigger death mistakes. But the consequences can be sweeping. A single bad entry can infect cyberspace and damage hundreds of records.
“It could get worse before it gets better,” attorney Jared Lee said.
Lee said once there's a death entry, even with bad information, the bureaus close all credit lines.
“Most of the time, creditors take the position, close now ask questions later,” Lee said.
A 2015 agreement between state attorneys general and the big three credit bureaus is supposed to make corrections faster.
Ulrich contacted Experian corporate managers in California nearly a week ago and there still is no response.
“I just want them to say I'm not dead, and I want it in writing,” Stackhouse said.
Consumers should always dispute a credit bureau mistake in writing and send documentation to support their claim. Unless the bureau proves your claim is wrong, it automatically comes off.
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