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Dead woman walking: Cincy woman listed as dead

Posted at 7:44 PM, Oct 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-12 19:44:28-04

Imagine getting a phone call from your credit card company, telling you that they have shut off your card because you are dead.

Hard to believe, but it has just happened to one Cincinnati -area woman.

It turns out this does happen quite a bit, and yes, it could happen to you.

Real life Walking Dead

We're all familiar with the show "The Walking Dead."  Karen Hite really is the walking dead. "I was going on vacation, and before we arrived I got a call from one of my creditors," Hite said.

A rep gave her some "grave" news: the US government had listed her as deceased.

"Basically the deceased division called to see who handles my affairs. I said "actually, this is Karen Hite."

Easy to Get on List, Hard to Get Removed

But that didn't help. Her name was already in the Social Security Death Master File, SSDMF.

For several weeks, she says, she was walking dead, a virtual zombie whose creditors refused to acknowledge she was alive.

The problem was that Social Security had sent each of them a letter that indicated she was deceased. As soon as they received it, they froze her accounts.

More Common Than You Think

Hite is one of more than 14,000 Americans every year  incorrectly listed as deceased, according to a Scripps News Service report.

The Social Security administration blames clerical errors for most of them.

Hite's vacation was ruined, accounts frozen, a recent mortgage application, denied.

"It has been overwhelming to say the least,"  Hite said.

Scripps News Service says:

  • Give out your SSN only when absolutely necessary.
  • If anyone says your name is on a death list, contact Social Security immediately.
  • Don't assume it will be automatically fixed.

Hite thinks it's wrong you can be considered dead until you prove otherwise.

"They push a button and all this occurs," she said. "But yet they can't go and send a letter to actually fix their error."

We contacted Social Security on Hite's behalf. The agency promised to expedite fixing this error.

But the agency will not comment on her case, say how it happened, or explain why entering a simple wrong number into the system can result in such a living nightmare....declaring you dead.

So watch your accounts, and take action immediately if this happens to you, so you don't waste your money.

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Disclosure:Karen Hite is employed our parent company, EW Scripps.
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Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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