'Deceased' Woman Is Not Dead, But Her Chances Of Getting Credit Are

You can't get a credit card if lenders think you're dead.

Bea Cohen, 81, of New Jersey, has been denied credit for years because credit rating agencies and lenders think she is dead, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports.

Cohen has been forced to rely on credit cards linked to her husband's accounts to get by, according to the Star-Ledger. The trouble began when Cohen was discharged from a hospital in 2006 and accidentally checked the wrong box on her exit forms. She was subsequently denied a Target credit card in 2006, had trouble refinancing her mortgage in 2007 and was denied credit with her dentist just last month.

Cohen is not the only person who has been cut off from credit because of being "deceased." In fact, the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares 14,000 people dead per year, or 38 per day, according to CNN Money. People that are declared dead lose their benefits and access to credit, cannot find new jobs, and become more vulnerable to identity theft, since their Social Security numbers often are published online.

Kathrine Neubauer, of Cottonwood, Calif., has lost access to her Medicare benefits and been forced to pay for almost everything with cash since the Social Security Administration declared her dead, according to the Redding Record-Searchlight. Though federal officials have fixed her records, many lenders still think she's dead.

Some younger people also get declared dead by mistake. James Scott, 48, of Tennessee, lost access to his bank accounts, credit cards, and veterans benefits when he was declared dead last month, KSLA 12 reports.

Here is how you can find out if you have been declared dead by mistake, via the Star-Ledger and WHDH-TV 7 News:

  • Call your local Social Security office.
  • Get a free copy of your credit report once a year by visiting or calling (877) 322-8228. You also are allowed to get a free copy if you have been denied credit.
  • Join a genealogy website and see if your Social Security number is listed.
  • You can contact credit rating agencies directly: Transunion at or (800) 916-8800, Equifax at or (800) 685-1111, and Experian at or (888) 397-3742.