My mother passed away June 1. Within hours after her passing, my wife notified Aetna because my mother had an electronic withdrawal set up for her Aetna Medicare plan premiums. A couple of days later they sent us a letter stating that her insurance had ceased on June 1.

Then, on June 9, they withdrew the June payment from her account.

My wife and I have called numerous times and have gone in a circle. They say they attempted to return the money but the account was closed. This is true: after they wouldn’t respond, we had to close the account to stop any more withdrawals.

They sent us some papers to fill out and send back. Weeks went by and I called again. They said they received the paperwork, but it takes eight to 10 weeks to issue a check. Now, three months later, I still have no check.


- Gerald Borchert, West Bend, Wis.


Dear GERALD:

Please accept our sincere condolences on the passing of your mother. Losing a loved one is exhausting, first for the grief and then for all the loose ends you need to deal with.

What was truly maddening was that you said your wife called to cancel the policy around 9 a.m. the morning your mother died – and you obtained confirmation of the cancellation. And then … the withdrawal occurred anyway.

We had a little better luck shaking loose the $507 that had been automatically withdrawn from her account. We took your documentation to the higher-ups at Aetna and they promised to look into it. It took a few more days, but you finally did get the $507 refunded to your mother’s estate.

Aetna apologized for the hassle, blaming the mix-up on criss-crossed payment and refund systems that canceled out each other.

We’re glad this finally got fixed.

You were dealing with the death of a parent, but your issue reminded us about something people need to do to protect their own credit when their spouse dies (or when a parent dies, if the son or daughter is the executor of the estate).

To prevent an identity thief from trying to access the deceased person’s credit file, be sure to alert the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – about the death. Ask the credit bureaus to add the designations “deceased” and “do not issue credit” to the person’s file.

You should do this in writing and include your name, address, phone number and email address along with the full name, Social Security number, address, birthdate and date of death of your loved one and a certified copy of the death certificate.

Spouses and executors also can request a copy of the deceased person’s credit report to see what outstanding accounts may be out there.

- The ABC News Fixer

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Stephanie Zimmermann

Most people groan at the thought of spending hours on the phone with a customer service call center, but Stephanie Zimmermann relishes the chance to slice through red tape.

Before joining ABC News, Stephanie untangled consumer problems at the Chicago Sun-Times, where her popular column recovered more than $1.4 million in refunds, credits, and merchandise for consumers in the Windy City.

Stephanie, who lives in Chicago, has also worked at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and has bachelor's and master's degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. But most of all, Stephanie is a consumer who hates to see anyone else get ripped off.