Walking Talking Dead: MO woman fighting to prove she's alive
Do you take all that plastic in your wallet for granted, and just assume it will work next time you need it?
A Malden, Missouri woman will tell you first hand that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to you and your hard earned money.
"No, what I have is my life on hold until I'm no longer deceased."
Those are words Peggy Bender has uttered multiple times to operators for about two months now.
Doesn't make sense, does it? It doesn't to Peggy Bender either.
"Thank you for messing up my life," said Bender as she spoke on the phone.
She's been losing her mind trying to figure out how the credit bureau, Equifax has declared her dead.
In March, Peggy went on a trip of a lifetime. She spent two weeks in Nigeria.
"One of the most beautiful places I've ever been," said Bender.
It was the perfect trip until the last day, departure day.
"They had a mechanical problem so they had to cancel the flight." said Bender.
She decided to just book a new flight and the airline would reimburse her.
Easy, right? Or, so she thought.
"My debit card didn't work," said Bender. "I didn't have a credit card that would work, nothing was working."
She called her bank back home in Malden.
"When he checked everything he couldn't put anything in my account, couldn't do anything because I was coded deceased," said Bender. "So I was now viewed as a deceased person."
The status left Peggy stranded on another continent with no way to access her own money.
"I was in a panic," said Bender.
There are three credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax.
In Peggy's case, she said a client of Equifax reported her deceased. That credit bureau wouldn't tell her who, citing privacy restrictions.
Debbie Frank is the owner of Credit Bureau Services in Cape Girardeau.
It's a collection agency so she sees how all this works from the inside, and she sees just about everything.
"People saying my identity was stolen," said Debbie Frank. "There are discrepancies on my credit report, how do I fix it."
Debbie wasn't surprised to hear about what happened to Peggy.
Unfortunately, she said that type of thing happens all too often.
Thankfully for Peggy Bender, some kind people in Nigeria loaned her the cash to fly home.
Once she finally made it she couldn't unwind from the trip.
She had to jump through hoops and spend more time than anyone would want talking to operators trying to get this taken care of.
She had to prove she's alive.
Peggy said if it can happen to her, it can happen to you.
"We're at their mercy aren't we," said Bender. "You could wake up one day and your whole life change."
Meanwhile, after our interview with Peggy, she found out another credit bureau, Experian, had declared her dead.
She has a mountain of questions, and no one to answer them.
Even while living this nightmare Peggy tries to find some humor in the situation.
"That's why I'm smiling because if I quit smiling I'll start screaming and crying," said Bender.
Peggy found out about her "dead" status on March 22, 2017.
So, it has been almost two months now with no change, even though she was originally told it would take three to five business days to process.
The advice: since you can't really prevent it, just make sure you know what's on your credit report, and make sure you have a good relationship with your bank just in case.
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