October 26, 2018 – By Pat Pratt
Even though she’s dead, Jeanne Haislip of Columbia makes a mean cup of coffee.
Perhaps one of the the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies should enjoy one with her. That way it might finally believe she’s very much alive.
“When’s the last time you got to interview a dead person?” she laughed while chit-chatting Thursday in her home.
Experian Information Solutions Inc. deemed the spry 85-year-old former model deceased in July 2017. Since then she has done everything she can to prove her continued validity — sent notarized letters, tax documents, even her gun permit — but they just won’t believe her.
The agency’s negligence has created countless headaches for Haislip. She lives on a meager retirement income and after closing her bank account due to an unrelated issue she was unable to open another. She finally had to have her son open an account in his name so she could take care of her finances.
“You name it, I went to every bank in this town,” Haislip said. “They all refused me. I said, ‘Why did you refuse me?’ And they said something about they couldn’t open my account because my credit was no good. I couldn’t get an account.”
While Haislip is not exactly sure how she died, apparently Discover Bank originally reported to the agency she was no longer among the living. One day when she opened her mail she received a statement from Discover saying she owed $10,000 from an account she allegedly opened years ago.
“I called and I called (Discover Bank),” Haislip said. “Oh, did I call them. I guess five or six times. They always said let me connect you with the fraud department. A lady answered the phone and she said, ’Mrs. Haislip, we can’t do anything for you. We have to reduce your credit card though. I said, ‘What did I do?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘you’re dead.’
“I took me by surprise and I said thank you. And I sat back and I cried. Oh, I’ve cried over this many times.”
Perhaps U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes will be able to resurrect her. She’s filed a federal lawsuit against both Experian and Discover alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the case is currently set for mediation.
“I’m scared,” Haislip said. “I’ve never (gone to court.)”
A complaint penned by Kansas City attorney Michael Rapp pulls no punches in pointing out the agency and the bank’s absurdity.
“Jeanne Haislip, the plaintiff in this case, is very much alive,” Rapp wrote. “Experian and Discover disagree with that straightforward truth for some inexplicable reason. Predictably, this has severely impacted Ms. Haislip’s life, not yet to the point of death however, because lenders are disinclined to extend credit to dead folks.”
Calls to both Experian and Discover Bank were not returned. Nor did attorneys for either company return calls. At least Discover attorney Matthew D. Guletz did acknowledge Haislip is still alive in his response to the federal complaint. He denies fault or that she is entitled to damages.
“Upon information and belief, Discover admits that plaintiff is alive,” the response states. “Discover also admits that it has received communications from an individual purporting to be plaintiff. Discover further admits that at certain points in time, plaintiff’s credit bureau file was marked as deceased. Discover denies any liability for plaintiff’s alleged injuries.”
Despite facing a lawsuit and a court date, Experian attorney Danne Wayne Webb apparently still believes Haislip is a ghost, zombie or other specter, according to his his response to the complaint.
“All claims against Experian are barred because all information Experian communicated to any third person regarding Plaintiff was true,” the Experian response states.
If the attorney’s can’t regenerate Haislip through arbitration, it may be up to a jury, which has been demanded in the complaint. The trial is set for August 2019.
While Haislip’s story is unusual it is not unheard of. At least three similar incidents have been reported in Missouri in recent years, two reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and another in Southeast Missouri reported by television station KFVS 12. Nationwide there are many other nearly identical tales.
Katie Ross is the community education and marketing manager for American Consumer Credit Counseling and offers some tips for anyone who might find themselves in such a situation.
“You should take a few steps, one thing is you should pull your credit from all three agencies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax,” Ross said. “Then contact them directly and ask who reported that information. Then you should contact the Social Security Administration to get a letter with proof you are not deceased. Afterward, submit that with the credit reporting agencies and make sure to dispute it with all three of them.”