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St. Louis woman has trouble convincing bank she's alive

Sunday, February 9, 2014 | 4:43 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — After spending nearly a year trying to convince her bank and a major credit bureau that she is alive, a St. Louis financial services supervisor filed a federal lawsuit against the two entities claiming their refusal to help fix the problem has blocked her from refinancing her mortgage or getting a new credit card.

Kimberly Haman, who lives in unincorporated St. Louis County, filed the suit last Monday in federal court against Heartland Bank, of St. Louis, and Equifax. The suit alleges that she repeatedly complained to both, but got no cooperation.

"She's contacting them, and saying, Excuse me, I'm not dead.' And even through that process, they continue to report her as deceased," the plaintiff's lawyer, Sylvia Goldsmith, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Haman said she was "shocked" to learn that the bank declared her dead nearly a year ago, and that the credit reporting company had passed the word along. She twice has been blocked from refinancing her mortgage at a lower rate, and was refused a credit card after potential lenders spotted her "deceased" status, the lawsuit said.

Haman declined to comment on Friday, and Heartland didn't return messages seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for Equifax, Meredith Griffanti, said that after a reporter asked about the lawsuit, staffers blocked the Heartland account so information would no longer appear on Haman's credit report.

Experts recommend that consumers check their credit reports regularly for errors or suspicious activity.

Goldsmith, an Ohio attorney who specializes in cases involving credit reporting and debt collection, considers herself one of only a few lawyers who "are really fighting to make changes with the faults in the system."

She declined to discuss Haman's case further, other than to say it "is shining the light" on deficiencies in the procedures used by credit reporting agencies such as Equifax to investigate disputed customer information.

Haman's suit says the problems started Feb. 5, 2013, when she was added to her parents' bank account. Goldsmith said it was done to assist them with financial matters as they age.

On March 29, a "reseller of credit information" to her prospective mortgage lender told Haman her refinancing application was on hold. Her credit score had dropped, "as Heartland appeared to be reporting Ms. Haman as 'deceased' on her Equifax credit report," the suit says.

Haman contacted the bank, which replied with a letter on April 2 saying she was not listed as dead. Her lender balked again in late June, saying she was still shown as dead.

Haman called Heartland again. Then she called Equifax, where an employee assured her the problem would be resolved, the suit says.

She was denied a credit card in August because she was listed as dead.

Robert Healey, Haman's local lawyer, said both of her parents are "alive and well," and that nothing happened to cause anyone to report her as deceased.

"That's what made it all the more baffling," Healey said.


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