How can I tell banks that I’m not dead?

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Dear Dr. Don,
I have tried to get a checking account at several banks over the past 10 years to no avail. I financed a home through one bank three years ago, but it refuses to approve me for a checking account because a reporting agency claims that I am dead. Well, I’m very much alive.

After doing some research, I learned that when I failed to renew a store’s credit card that I did not use, my roommate at the time told them I was dead so they would quit calling. I wasn’t aware of the problem at the time. How can I fix this mess and open a checking account?

— Steven Soul

Dear Steven,
Ten years is a long time. It is certainly curious that the bank originated a mortgage for you but refuses to help you open a checking account. But, I think I know why.

It is likely that your problem involves data managed by ChexSystems, not the credit reporting agencies. ChexSystems reports on banking relationships, not credit accounts, per se. As long as they think you’re dead, you will continue to have a problem opening a new checking account. You can’t blame them, right?

Unfortunately, if ChexSytems thinks you’re dead, you might have a problem working through normal channels to file a dispute to try to correct the problem. You should contact them directly at (877) 432-4818 or see their website. Find out for certain about your standing with credit reports.

Finally, if that isn’t successful, reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog agency in Washington, D.C.

Don’t forget that there are consumer reporting agencies, or CRAs, besides the credit bureaus. Such CRAs are required by law to provide consumers with a free report each year.

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