Judy Cashner admits being mildly amused when her “estate” received a letter from her bank claiming she had died.
But when she and her husband couldn’t refinance their home to help pay for a new septic tank, that’s when the laughs ended, she said.
“My income was not available because I was deceased,” Cashner, 76, of Lincoln City, Ore., told OregonLive.com.
Cashner later found out her bank, Wells Fargo, had passed along errant information about her “death” to three credit-reporting agencies – making the problem worse.
“At first I thought they’d just cancel the credit card and it was kind of funny," Cashner said. "But now it’s not funny.”
She said the refinancing situation was eventually resolved but mysterious “non estate” charges suddenly appeared on her credit card bill.
The bank said it planned to investigate what went wrong and declined to get into details about Cashner’s case, citing privacy concerns. Officials said the bank normally needs a Social Security number and a death certificate to certify a customer has died, OregonLive.com reported.
Wells Fargo is among the nation’s largest banks but it has also made some negative headlines in recent years, the report noted.
In February, for example, it agreed to a $3 billion deal to settle investigations into a practice of charging customers for unneeded accounts so it could meet sales goals, and has allegedly forced customers to buy car insurance they didn’t want and pay bogus fees on their mortgages, the report said.
Susan Grant from the nonprofit Consumer Federal of America was stunned to hear about Cashner’s ordeal – but she said consumers have “a variety of rights” at their disposal whenever they are the victim of incorrect information.
Cashner said Wells Fargo customer service employees didn’t seem very concerned when she tried to explain her problem over the phone.
But the retired secretary does remember a pleasant encounter with one Wells Fargo employee after she was invited to a branch to discuss her problem in person.
“The lady at Wells Fargo told me I looked good,” Cashner said, according to OregonLive,com. “So, I did like her for that.”