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Posted: December 09, 2015

88-year-old nearly loses her home after mortgage company thinks she’s dead

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By Christine DiGangi

An 88-year-old woman almost lost her home because her mortgage company mistakenly thought she was dead, WKRN-TV reported.

Minnie Fish took out a reverse mortgage years ago as a way to pay her taxes and bills, so when the company thought she was dead, it cut off access to the loan and prevented Fish from making payments. When she got the loan, the agreement said the company could sell her property when she died.

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The company prematurely started going through with that end of the deal after an errant death report. In the summer, the company started sending notices to Fish’s estate that her loan was due because she had died, with the most recent notice saying the company would refer the loan to foreclosure processing.

Since then, the issue has been corrected, and Fish can access her loan again.

“We have been working with Ms. Fish over the last few months to resolve this issue, and as of Nov. 30 we received the final documentation required to correct her file,” the company said in an email to WKRN-TV.

While it’s great Fish didn’t lose her home, the story remains a troubling tale for consumers.

The whole thing happened because the mortgage company acted on what it thought was accurate information — the problem stemmed from an incorrect death report, the company said — leaving Fish without the resources she needed for everyday expenses.

WKRN-TV didn’t specify any issues Fish had when she couldn’t pay her bills, but there are a lot of possibilities. For example, if you fail to pay a utility bill, the company may shut off your service. If a bill goes unpaid long enough, you might start to hear from debt collectors, and on top of that, a collection account on your credit report can significantly damage your credit scores. 

It’s unclear exactly how the errant death report occurred, but Fish’s experience serves as a lesson to consumers: Watch all your accounts for signs of errors. The sooner you ask questions about an odd notice or unexpected activity, the more quickly you’re likely to get a resolution. Of course, as Fish learned, proving something seemingly simple (like being alive) can still take a long time, hence the urgency of acting quickly.

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