March 14, 2012 -- Arthur Livingston of Prosperity, S.C., is hoping Bank of America will reimburse thousands of dollars incurred after Bank of America erroneously reported that he was deceased on his credit reports.
Bank of America has been reporting him as deceased to the three major credit agencies since May 2009, he said. His credit report states "file not scored because subject is deceased."
The mistaken code was finally removed on Feb. 22, four and a half months after Livingston, 39, learned about the error and complained to Bank of America.
The regional manager of a chemical company, Livingston discovered the dilemma when he tried to obtain a loan from a mortgage company in October. The problem may have begun when Livingston, who said he has been a Bank of America customer for 14 years, sold his home in May 2009.
His mortgage company is now able to obtain his credit score to give him a loan for his new home, but the incident has added thousands of dollars to the building process and affected his credit score after he made a dozen credit inquiries.
His family's plan for their new home was to begin construction in mid-December and move in by April. He, his wife, son and daughter, 8 and 5, respectively, have been living in a rental home while they wait. It has cost them $6,000 in rent so far and will likely cost another $6,000 as they wait for the new home.
Livingston is asking Bank of America for compensation for rent "because we've established no equity in our home for over four and half months."
"It's been a complete waste of time," he said of the "inexcusable" mistake.
In addition, the builders will have to clear the land for his new home again, which cost $2,450 the first time back in October. And since October, the contractor sent him a bill indicating his building costs, like copper wire and concrete, have increased $4,000.
"We were unable to lock into a contract because we were unable to obtain a loan," he said. "If [the contractor] starts building tomorrow we are looking at an additional $4,000 that we don't think we should have to pay."
Livingston said he would be "impressed" if Bank of America offers reimbursement for the related extra costs, but the impression he has received is "they don't really care."
"They're not going to lose a customer other than me and that doesn't seem to bother them," he said.
A spokeswoman for Bank of America said for privacy reasons the bank does not discuss details of individual customer concerns.
"I can tell you that we have worked directly with Mr. Livingston to correct the matter and have apologized for the error," she said.
Livingston said he received a letter in the mail dated Jan. 31 but stamped on Feb. 9 thanking him for contacting the bank and indicating that Bank of America made the request to remove the code indicating he was deceased.
"I have not received any written apology," he said. "They have told me over the phone they are sorry this has happened. There is nothing that says they have apologized for the 138 days that I was unable to get a new line of credit in any form."
He said Bank of America media representatives have canceled scheduled phone calls with him for the past three business days but he did speak with a spokeswoman on Tuesday, who asked to see his credit score from October.
James B. Fishman, a consumer attorney in New York, said the Fair Credit Reporting Act may give Livingston grounds for suing either the bank or the credit bureaus if he appropriately disputed his credit report with the credit bureaus.
"I always push people to try to get as much information as possible. It's not necessarily intuitive for the round-about process," he said.
Fishman said cases in which consumers are mistakenly declared deceased don't occur every day but are "not unheard of."
"It doesn't surprise me to hear a bank would do that," he said.
Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the Public Interest Research Group, said the credit reporting bureaus have mistakenly declared people as deceased by relying on the Social Security Administration data.
"This is the reason why we need Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," Mierzwinski said of the new federal agency created from the Dodd-Frank Act. "Credit bureaus and banks get away with this stuff all the time."