What to do if your credit report says that you’re dead

If you’re mistakenly reported as dead by a credit bureau, there can be serious consequences on your credit. You may be denied when applying for a loan, find your credit cards canceled and your assets frozen, and even be denied employment or important medical treatment when your credit score is zero. When this happens, your life can be completely turned upside down.

Credit reporting agencies easily mistake a living person for deceased when:

  • an account is mixed up with a deceased applicant 
  • a Social Security Number is reported for a deceased person
  • a person is the victim of identity theft or fraud

Financial institutions, credit bureaus, and other entities often share and receive vast amounts of data. If a document about an account holder who has passed away is misread or misfiled, the deceased status will be automatically linked to a living individual’s account.

Moreover, automated systems often match death records with account holders’ information to update their status. If there’s a partial match due to common names or other shared details, it could incorrectly identify a living person as deceased.

However, once you’re falsely listed on the Death Master File (DMF), it can be difficult to remove yourself. The Death Master File (DMF) is a database managed by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) that contains records of deceased persons who had Social Security Numbers.

This file is used by many credit bureaus and financial organizations to update their data. On top of your credit being destroyed, being mistakenly reported as deceased in this database will create a domino effect: you’ll need to notify all credit bureaus, reporting agencies, and the social security administration of your correct status and provide documentation.

Just some of the many problems this can cause

Discovering that your credit report says you’re dead, with a credit score of zero, is no laughing matter. Not only are there serious repercussions, but it is hard to undo the damage. For example, if you have minor credit report mistakes, you can still borrow money at higher interest rates. But if you have been incorrectly reported as deceased, you will be automatically denied for all credit applications. 

Finding yourself mistakenly listed as deceased can lead to a cascade of issues:

  • Your credit and assets are frozen 
  • You’re denied a loan or line of credit
  • You’re denied access to your bank accounts
  • Online purchases or transactions are denied
  • Late fees, service interruptions, and other issues
  • Joint account holders and Co-signers experience financial difficulties
  • You lose your social security benefits
  • Your credit score is damaged
  • Your tax return or refund is rejected
  • Emotional stress 

However, these reporting errors don’t just disrupt your financial life; they also violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA protects consumers from the misuse and misreporting of their credit information by requiring credit bureaus to correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information. If information in your credit report has been used against you, you have the right to hold credit bureaus and other credit agencies accountable.

Your next steps

What can you do if you have been mistakenly reported as deceased? The first step is to get your credit reports from the Big 3: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Next, ask the Social Security Association for a proof of life letter, so that you have documentation to prove that you’re not dead. Finally, contact a qualified consumer protection attorney. 

Consumer Attorneys can help you correct your credit report, challenge misleading debt collection, litigate cases of identity theft, and sue the credit reporting agency. You may be entitled to monetary compensation depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. Don’t let a credit agency’s mistake bury your credit — take the first step today!

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