So says the title of the joke/hoax email that you might have seen.   The earliest account I can find on the internets is this from 2004.

“My Aunt died this past January. Citibank billed her for February and March for their monthly service charge on her credit card, and then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge…the balance had been $0.00… now was somewhere around $60.00)

I placed the following phone call to CitiBank:

Me: “I am calling to tell you that she died in January.”

CitiBank: “The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.”

Me: “Maybe, you should turn it over to collections…”

CitiBank: “Since it is 2 months past due, it already has been.”

Me: “So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?”

CitiBank: “Either report her account to the frauds division, or report her to the credit bureau…maybe both!”

Me: “Do you think God will be mad at her?”

CitiBank:”…excuse me …..?”

Me: “Did you just get what I was telling you…. the part about her being dead?”

CitiBank: “Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor!”

(Supervisor gets on the phone)

Me: ”I’m calling to tell you, she died in January.”

CitiBank: “The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.”

Me: “You mean you want to collect from her estate?”

CitiBank: “…..(stammer)”

CitiBank: “Are you her lawyer?”

Me: “No, I’m her great nephew.” (Lawyer info given… )

CitiBank: “Could you fax us a certificate of death?”

Me: “Sure.” ( Fax number is given )

( After they get the fax. )

CitiBank: “Our system just isn’t setup for death…”

Me: “Oh…”

CitiBank: “I don’t know what more I can do to help…”

Me: “Well… if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her…I suppose…don’t really think she will care….”

CitiBank: “Well…the late fees and charges do still apply.”

Me: “‘Would you like her new billing address?”

CitiBank: “That might help.”

Me: ” ( Odessa Memorial Cemetery #### Hwy 129 and plot number given. )

CitiBank: “Sir, that’s a cemetery!”

Me: “What do you do with dead people on your planet?!!””

Is This A True Story?

Here is the page on Snopes investigating its veracity.   The result are inconclusive.    I would not put it past an untrained customer service agent to make up stuff like this.   I am reminded of the infamous case of the New Mexico resident who was told that he could not purchase tickets for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta because New Mexico was not part of the United States.

Ultimately, it doesn’really matter if the story is true or not, it is funny because we feel as if it could be true.

What Do Credit Card Companies Do About Your Debts When You Die?

I have touched on it here, but the short story is that they will try to collect from your survivors.   I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, survivors often have no legal obligation to pay debts.    On the other hand, I almost can’t fault the companies for trying.    Two of my favorite expressions are: “It can’t hurt to ask” and “You will never know if you don’t ask”.     Look at it from the company’s standpoint.   They are owed money, and they have an obligation to their share holders to at least ask for repayment, even if the survivors are not legally obligated to do so.

Here is a New York Times article on how they are trained to ask nicely, a courtesy generally extended only by those with no other legal resource.    On the other hand, there is the approach described here, where the bank guilt trips the survivors and even pins the blame for the worldwide financial crisis on them.    I really have no sympathy for that approach.   I can hardly think of a more vulnerable point in a person’s life than the aftermath of the death of a loved one.

I don’t mean to be all morbid, but the time to consider these things is now, hopefully long before you experience any kind of tragedy.   Properly informed, you may one day be in a position to be able to assist others when they experience the loss of a loved one.     The best advice I could give would be not to mail any checks until you have spoken with a lawyer.    Credit card debt is unsecured debt, and thus has a higher interest rate than secured debt, such as a mortgage.    One of the reasons why you pay a higher interest rate is because your debt does not necessarily have to be paid back in the event of your death.    Fail to pay off your mortgage, and the bank merely forecloses and repossesses the property.

The credit card companies will always take their rights up until the limit of the law, and I recommend you do the same with your rights.

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  1. Yo Prinzel Says:

    Technically, the assets purchased prior to death do become assets for the estate/heirs and should be paid for if there is a balance outstanding. If intangibles or food were purchased (and let’s assume consumed) the money that could have been spent on them goes to the estate, so there is still a gain.

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