The Best Way to Fix a Deceased Credit Report Is to Know Your Rights Under the Law
Did a credit report inform you that you're dead? As absurd as it seems, proving that you're alive is now your number one job. We'll explain how a deceased credit report mistake occurs, what to do if it does, what your legal rights are, how to protect yourself from the financial and emotional harm that it can cause, and how to get compensation.
A deceased credit report is a loosely phrased term referring to a credit report on which a consumer is falsely flagged as dead when, in fact, they are alive and typically in need of credit approval of some kind or another. There are several reasons why this mistake happens, which this article will explain, but the most important thing to remember is that it is a serious error that can adversely impact your financial and emotional well-being. This is especially true since creditworthiness is the most critical factor shaping nearly every aspect of our consumer-driven lives.
The best way to protect yourself is with the right information, which is why I’m going to explain everything you need to know about why these errors occur, how to seek error corrections when they do, why legal advice is essential to resolving them, and how we can help from the beginning of the process to the end.
Keep reading for the knowledge and resources you’ll need to salvage your credit, protect your assets, and get back to living.
Why Does My Credit Report Say Consumer Deceased?
If you recently tried to access credit in anticipation of a financial transaction (mortgage, auto loan, rental property, line of credit, etc.), only to discover that you failed a credit check because you’ve been designated as deceased by one or more entities, start by understanding why this discrepancy happens.
Credit Reporting Agencies and Data Furnishers
You’ve likely heard of the big three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), which most financial institutions use for verification of your creditworthiness when you seek a loan or approval. These companies are called credit reporting agencies (CRAs) and are among many CRAs that gather and compile consumer data for credit check reports.
The CRAs purchase this data from other companies who furnish (provide) it. These other companies include such places as credit card companies, utility and service providers, mortgage lenders, etc. These companies are referred to as data furnishers. Essentially, the data furnishers give information about your payment history, debt-to-asset ratio, income, etc., to the CRAs, which then create a detailed history of your life as a consumer. They give you a credit score (a number within the range of 300 to 850) based on their assessment of how likely you are to repay a loan on time.
You can be mistakenly flagged as a deceased account at any point in this process. This means that an inaccuracy about your untimely death can come from any of the CRAs or data furnishers or from the Social Security Administration (SSA) itself.
These are the reasons that this error makes its way into your financial record:
- Input error: Data furnishers can simply make basic mistakes at the data entry level by mixing up names, dates, locations, etc., when accessing a consumer account. When these input errors happen at the SSA, it can result in a Social Security Number (SSN) being flagged as belonging to a deceased consumer.
- Death of co-signer: If you have any joint or affiliated financial accounts and the other person(s) die, their deceased designation can be linked to yours inadvertently.
- Mixed Files: Credit reports that contain co-mingled data belonging to two unaffiliated individuals are called mixed files. This can be caused by input errors or inadequate review by the CRA receiving consumer data. With respect to the latter, CRAs are obligated by law to use care in the review and inclusion of data received from furnishers. Careless review and investigation can result in co-mingled data.
- Identity Theft: Identity theft can wreak havoc across the full scope of your financial profile, including generating false data that shows you as deceased. While this kind of fraudulent activity typically has online origins, it can originate from a number of sources. Taking steps to ensure online security and privacy is an excellent way to help thwart this kind of criminal activity before it becomes a problem.
Deceased Indicator On Credit Report
Importantly, if you have a deceased indicator on a credit report, you should take this seriously. When this mistaken designation is discovered while you’re trying to attain credit for a purchase or loan, you will be maximally motivated to dispute the error.
However, if you only happen to notice it during an annual review of your credit, you may not understand the full impact this type of discrepancy can cause. Even if you receive something as seemingly innocuous in the mail as a random auto-generated condolence from an account you closed years prior, do not ignore it. Check your credit report and be prepared to dispute any errors showing you as deceased. At this level of data (a random, old account), you may still be able to halt the spread before it reaches every account in your financial portfolio.
Mistakenly Reported Dead
If you have disputed false reports of your death, but the CRAs or data furnishers you’ve dealt with have failed to perform an adequate investigation or to correct inaccurate, false, or misleading information about your death, then you should absolutely consult with a consumer protection attorney. You may need to file a mistakenly reported as deceased lawsuit at this point.
Credit Report Says I Am Deceased
If you find yourself researching phrases like “credit report says I am deceased” then you’ve found the right resource to help guide your next steps. Read through this article in its entirety in order to be well-versed in the problem and the solutions.
SSN Reported as Deceased
As we’ve reported previously, in any given year, approximately 12,000 American consumers discover that their social security number is reported as deceased. When this happens, it means that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has mistakenly added the Death Master File. The latter is a database the SSA maintains with the names and Social Security Numbers of everyone who died in a given calendar year.
Since this is essentially an official confirmation of your demise, the implications are swift and severe. Banks, lenders, credit card companies, and service providers of all kinds will likely freeze or close accounts, so contact a consumer protection attorney to best protect yourself. Legal guidance is highly recommended for resolving this scenario.
Credit Bureau Reports Applicant is Deceased
The credit bureaus are simply the three largest and most often utilized credit reporting agencies (CRAs), but a false credit bureau deceased designation will have a fast and furious impact on your credit profile. So, if you’re wondering what to do if a credit bureau lists you as deceased, the answer is to act quickly to consult an attorney and file a dispute (see below).
Whether the erroneous death designation is the fault of the credit bureau (failing to properly review data during the gathering process) or whether it is the fault of a furnisher (providing incorrect data to the credit bureau), the credit bureau(s) still has an obligation to review and correct disputed information. The very fact of falsely reporting a consumer’s death can be damaging financially and emotionally, and the failure to conduct adequate investigation and remediation enhances those harms.
If you get a TransUnion deceased notification, it means that one or more of the accounts in your TransUnion credit profile has submitted data indicating that you’re dead. This is a serious situation warranting immediate attention, and you should consult a consumer protection attorney. You should also request a free copy of your credit report from each of the other two credit bureaus (Equifax and Experian) to confirm whether the error is consistent across all three.
If you get an Equifax deceased notification, like any of the other credit bureaus, it may be a stand-alone notification that only affects Equifax, or it may be present across all three credit bureaus. Regardless, you should contact an attorney and engage Equifax to dispute the deceased notification. Also, be sure to review your credit report from all three credit bureaus to determine the extent of the inaccuracies. See below for information on how to dispute and correct these errors.
If you receive an Experian deceased notification, you should treat this the same way you would treat a similar notification from either of the other credit bureaus. Following an Experian death notification, contact a consumer protection attorney, confirm the extent of the inaccurate death notification, and file a formal dispute.
Credit Karma Says I'm Deceased
Outside of the credit bureaus or data furnishers, there are other entities that engage in the consumer financial landscape without actually providing data or compiling data streams. Credit Karma is one such company. It reports credit data from TransUnion and Equifax, so if you utilize its services and come away learning about your own fictional financial death, you need to immediately review your credit reports from all three bureaus and consult an attorney. This means that if you’re concerned because “Credit Karma Says I’m Deceased” the credit bureaus that generated the erroneous reports are the responsible parties.
However, the fact that Credit Karma is neither a credit bureau nor a data furnisher does not absolve it of liability to the consumers who use its services. If Credit Karma continues to report your death erroneously or fails to correct the error even after notification of a dispute, then they may still be liable.
If you discover that your credit report identifies a deceased account, you’ll need to determine which account is impacted and whether the error has been picked up and reported by other entities. Frequently, CRAs and data furnishers simply “parrot” erroneous information, repeating it without verification of its accuracy. However, the law requires a higher standard of care from these companies, and a lawyer is your best asset for figuring out how to protect your financial profile through remediation and repair.
How to Prove You Are Not Deceased
Proving that you’re still a living, breathing, creditworthy consumer requires a process of formal dispute, documentation, and identity verification. Importantly, a knowledgeable and skilled consumer protection attorney is your best bet for successfully understanding how to prove you are not deceased. Whether you consult an attorney (which we recommend) or attempt it on your own, be sure to follow the specific dispute guidelines and requirements for the CRA(s) and the Social Security Administration, if necessary. See below for more details.
Correcting a Deceased Indicator on Your Credit Report
If you’ve been falsely declared dead by a CRA, data furnisher, or the Social Security Administration (SSA), follow these steps to optimize your chances of attaining a successful outcome.
- Contact a consumer protection attorney. With this step alone, you will dramatically increase your chances of quickly and effectively resolving this error. Working with a professional to guide you through the process is invaluable. They can explain the process, guide you through it, protect your rights, and hold the CRAs, furnishers, SSA, and third-party entities accountable to their obligations under the law. This can also mean winning ample compensation for any financial and emotional injuries that you sustained as a result.
- Undergo a detailed credit review. Obtain free copies of your credit reports from each of the credit bureaus and review them line by line, making detailed notes on errors, inaccuracies, and misleading information and identifying any accounts that are incorrectly reported as deceased. Discrepancies among the reports from the different credit bureaus are possible and should also be tracked.
If a credit check undertaken as part of a loan or approval process flagged you as deceased, then you are entitled to receive a free copy of the report. Otherwise, you always have the right to access a free annual credit report from each of the big three CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
There are three ways that consumers can request a copy of their free credit report: online at annualcreditreport.com, by phone at 877-322-8228, or by mailing a request form, which can be printed at annualcreditreport.com. Online requests should only be made through the above government-verified site.
- File a dispute. Follow the protocols outlined by the CRAs or the SSA in order to formally dispute this error and seek a correction. Please see below for more detailed information and note our advice to dispute via mail rather than using an online portal.
- Provide documentation. Providing adequate documentation is critical to disputing a false death designation because it hinges on the authentication of your identity as a vital and functioning human being (rather than a ghost). Once your identity validation is complete, theoretically, your status should be corrected to properly reflect your presence among the living. Unfortunately, this is frequently not an adequate resolution because of poor investigation and follow-through on the part of the CRAs.
- Prepare to fight for your rights. Unfortunately, stalls, delays, and deadends are frequent. This typically happens because CRAs or furnishers fail to adhere to statutory timelines, fail to properly investigate, and fail to adequately correct the errors. This is why it is important to contact a consumer protection attorney today.
Dispute With the Creditor
You will dispute the error at the creditor (or furnisher) level if only one or two data furnishers are reporting you as deceased. Creditors who might make this type of reporting error include credit card companies, banks, retirement accounts, mortgage holders, employers, municipal records, etc. For instance, a single retail account from ten years ago may have incorrectly marked you as deceased when the account closed. You should follow their dispute procedures and provide whatever documentation is required. (Before submitting anything online, please see our warning regarding the use of an online dispute platform.)
Dispute With the Credit Bureau
It is essential that you dispute any inaccurate data in your credit profile with the credit bureaus. Even if the error only exists with one outdated account, this will give the CRAs formal notice across the board that the information being reported about your demise is false. Again, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus (see above for specific details about how to do this).
Notably, if a CRA is reporting you as deceased, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit even if the CRA corrects the error. For instance, correcting the error may not have prevented you from suffering harm (such as losing out on a mortgage, auto loan, or job opportunity) or from having the error reported to different companies. This is one of many reasons that a consumer protection attorney is an essential tool in remediating these types of situations. CRAs are not necessarily without fault or liability just because they make changes in response to your formal dispute.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides direct contact information for consumer disputes with the Credit Bureaus on its website. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
BE AWARE that the credit bureaus, other CRAs, and data furnishers may all have an accessible online dispute platform available to consumers, but using it is generally not a good idea. Despite the ease of an online platform, you will likely be required to waive your right to bring a lawsuit. It is generally not in your best interest to forgo this right at the outset of the dispute process, so we strongly recommend disputing false death designations (and any other error) via certified mail.
Dispute With the Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a Death Master File (DMF), which records the death of everyone issued a Social Security Number (SSN). If the SSA is falsely reporting you as deceased, it means that your SSN has erroneously made its way into the DMF.
Filing a formal dispute to remove yourself from the DMF requires an in-person authentication process at your nearest SSA office. The SSA keeps an updated list of the documents you will need to provide in order to verify your status as living. Online Services | SSA Please note that copies of documents are not sufficient. You will need originals for everything.
Once the error is confirmed by the SSA, they provide you with a document indicating that the error has been corrected. You will then provide this formal proof to any other entities mistakenly reporting you as dead.
Benefits of Professional Legal Support from a Deceased Reporting Attorney
If you’ve been reported as deceased on a credit report attorney advice and guidance is paramount.
The fact that CRAs and data furnishers regularly lose lawsuits from consumers who have been falsely reported as dead has not resulted in meaningful process improvements on their end to limit these types of mistakes. While this is bad news for consumers, there is good news. This track record of costly mistakes by CRAs and data furnishers means that consumer protection attorneys have amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in developing best practices for navigating, litigating, and winning these cases.
At Consumer Attorneys, our top-tier lawyers are driven to protect and restore your credit, livelihood, and well-being. They will help get you compensated for the costs, losses, and harms that these errors can cause.
Our attorneys have over seventy-five years of combined experience helping thousands of clients resurrect their financial lives after being falsely reported as dead! Reach out today, and we’ll help you get back to good.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that protects consumers from a broad range of harms, including the reporting of inaccurate, misleading, and false data that damages a consumer’s financial profile, reputation, opportunities, and emotional well-being. Being erroneously declared deceased when you’re actually doing your best to enjoy being alive is exactly the kind of harm that the FCRA is meant to prevent and remedy.
Importantly, not only do you have legal rights under the FCRA, but the CRAs and data furnishers also have legal obligations. At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers are well-versed in the nuances and complexities of the FCRA and highly skilled at developing personalized legal strategies for optimizing the law to protect injured consumers.
How much does it cost?
There is no fee when you speak with us for an initial consultation. We know that you don’t really know if you need a lawyer until you reach out and tell us your story. We’re always happy to listen and offer guidance through a free consultation.
Even better, there is no fee paid by you for our services. When we take your case, we will only get paid if we win, and those costs and fees will be paid for by the companies we sue. How is this possible? Because that is how the law is structured. In order to maximally protect consumers from suffering financial harm caused by careless, negligent, or willful errors, the law requires the responsible parties to pay for the injured consumer’s legal services.
Ask for Our Help Now
Consumer Attorneys has talented consumer protection lawyers in twenty states and counting. Plus, we maintain a thriving attorney referral network, so we will always be able to help you, whether we represent you ourselves or get you to another attorney who can.
Let our expertise power your win. We look forward to helping you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Credit Report Say I'm Deceased?
If your credit report says that you’re deceased, it is due to mistakes made by one of the entities involved in tracking, compiling, and reporting consumer data. This error can come from companies that deal directly with consumers, such as credit card companies, service providers, mortgage lenders, retail accounts, etc. Or they can come from one of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), a municipal record database, or the Social Security Administration. They can also sometimes be caused by identity theft or fraud.
What To Do if Credit Report Says You Are Deceased?
If your credit report says you are deceased, you should start by contacting a consumer protection law firm, such as Consumer Attorneys. This type of credit reporting error can cause big problems at a fast pace, and an attorney is your best resource. You should also dispute the error with the credit reporting agency, data furnisher, or Social Security Administration, following their protocols and submitting the relevant documentation. Be aware that using online dispute portals can limit your legal rights. (See above.) Certified mail is the best bet.
What Does Consumer Deceased Mean on Credit Report?
When a consumer deceased indicator shows up on a credit report, it means that you have erroneously been flagged as being dead. This is a serious error and should be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible. It may be that a single account is mistakenly reporting you as dead or that your entire credit portfolio has been marked as such. It can also mean that your name has mistakenly been entered into the Master Death File at the Social Security Administration.
How Do I Know if a Credit Report Says I Am Deceased?
A deceased indicator appears directly on the credit report. So you will only know if your credit report says you’re deceased by either applying for a loan or approval that requires a credit check or by requesting and reviewing your credit report. You have the right to access a free credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) once per year. (See above for detailed information about how to get your free reports.)
Where does it say on my credit report that I am deceased?
The deceased indicator will appear in the information about each account. Specifically, a credit report identifies the responsible party for each account. If you have been mistakenly reported as deceased, the responsible party will be listed as “deceased” next to one or all of the affected accounts.