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INDIANAPOLIS– A man is pleading for answers after he claims Equifax wrongfully declared him deceased.

Terry Akers’ wife went out Christmas shopping in 2017. She was trying to purchase gifts at a department store when the cashier told her the couple’s credit card was declined.

“She got on the phone with customer service and the guy told her that he had a report from Equifax that I had passed away,” Akers told CBS4.

The couple tried calling the credit agency but said they could never get a live person on the phone. When they tried calling their credit card companies, each representative told them they were not allowed to speak about the accounts because Akers was supposed to be dead.

“I was checking my heart to see if I was alive,” he laughed. “It didn’t make any sense.”

Akers says the situation hasn’t been a laughing matter for the last three years. He is now without any credit and needing some help financially.

“We have estimates and things we need to get done and we can’t do it because of the credit report. And you can’t use your credit cards to help substantiate your income to help do things so now the cash we put back to help get work done, we had to use,” he explained. “We’ve got grandkids we’d like to do Christmas for and it’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to even do anything for Christmas.”

Akers filed a report with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office but never received a conclusion. A year into their investigation, the Consumer Protection Division just keeps telling him that they are “waiting for a response.”

CBS4 called the AG’s office to get an update. Scott Barnhart, who works for the Consumer Protection Division, wasn’t willing to comment on this specific case but admitted, this has happened before.

“Mistakes happen, right?” he said. “There are thousands and thousands of consumers out there and they have responsibilities with their companies and reporting and sometimes things get missed.”

Barnhart said typically, credit card companies will try to prove an individual has passed away before officially closing out the account. In some instances, though, that doesn’t happen.

“That’s again getting into an issue of the system not being perfect,” he said.

James Nehf, a law professor at IUPUI, said about 1,000 people experience this “death by credit agency” every year. He said it can be life-changing and devastating.

“You chuckle a little bit because some people thinks it’s somewhat humorous but believe me, it’s not,” he said. “If your credit report shows that you’ve been deceased, you will not be able to get a mortgage , you will not be to rent an apartment or get any extension of credit that involves a credit checks.”

Nehf agreed with the state in that credit bureaus are only “receptacles for information,” so he said if bad information is reported, they simply receive and store it. Sometimes, these issues are connected to scams. Other times, the credit bureau did not do enough to prove someone’s identification.

“The credit reporting companies do not have legal obligation to keep absolutely accurate records but they do have a legal obligation to have reasonable procedures in place to assure maximum possible accuracy so if you can show the credit bureau did not have good procedures in place, that they should have been able to catch this problem, then you might have a case against the credit reporting agency and you can get damages,” Nehf said.

He recommended people check their credit scores as often as possible.

“You can get one free credit report each year from each of the three big bureaus, so every four months, pull a credit report from one of the three and correct these kinds of mistakes before it’s a problem for you,” he suggested.

Akers told CBS4 he cannot afford an attorney. He said everyone he has called so far told him that Equifax is too big of a company to go after.