Fix an Experian Deceased Alert on Your Credit Report! Know Your Rights, What Steps To Take, and When to Get Legal Help.
Were you mistakenly reported as deceased by Experian? Though it may seem unbelievable, now you have to prove that you're alive! Learn how this mistake happens, how you can fix it, what your legal rights are, how to prevent the worst financial and emotional consequences, and how a lawsuit can get you compensation. Call today for a free consultation!
A surprisingly common error in the consumer data industry is the erroneous reporting of a consumer’s death. Thousands of people are impacted each year by this mistake and are forced to spend countless hours digging out of a financial and emotional pit.
While it may seem almost silly at first, if an Experian deceased alert shows up in your credit report, it is actually quite a serious error and imperative that you take action immediately. Unfortunately, most people learn that their Experian credit report is showing them as deceased during a pivotal financial event such as applying for a mortgage, an auto loan, housing or employment opportunity, or similar.
Being denied financing or employment because Experian says you’re dead, and then having to prove that you’re not, is shockingly traumatic and frustrating for most people. And the process of resolving this deceptive debacle is frequently neither straightforward nor easy.
An experienced consumer lawyer is exactly the spirit guide…er, the legal guide you need to remove the Experian death notification, protect your rights, repair your financial and credit profiles, and get compensation to make you whole again. I will tell you everything you need to know to prevent the worst outcomes and optimize the best outcomes. And, no séance is required. Just keep reading.
Mistakenly Reported as Deceased by Experian
If you are one of the many thousands of unlucky consumers each year who must contend with these errors, not only are you left mystified by the conundrum that “Experian says I’m deceased, but I’m not,” you are also charged with having to invest time, energy, and attention to fixing the problem. An excellent place to start is understanding how these mistakes happen.
What is Experian anyway?
To start, know that the consumer data industry is a massive, multi-billion dollar operation that centers on the buying, selling, and analyzing of consumer data for general profiteering, including the marketing of goods and services. Credit reporting is a specific subset of the consumer data industry that transforms consumer data into a product (credit reports) sold to other companies to make informed financial transactions.
Known as one of the credit bureaus (along with Equifax and TransUnion), Experian is a for-profit company that buys, sells, mines, sifts, and compiles consumer data into credit reports. Several federal laws are implicated in the transactions of the consumer data industry, but by far, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the most relevant. In many states, there is also comparable or complementary legislation at the state level.
The FCRA classifies Experian as a consumer reporting agency (CRA) because of the way it engages with consumer data. In fact, the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) are so-called because they are the three largest nationwide CRAs. This is relevant to you because CRAs are held to a legal standard of care in how your data is processed and reported and how disputes about your data are investigated. The FCRA obligates Experian to make a genuine effort to produce accurate information and to adequately and timely investigate and correct errors.
In our experience as consumer protection lawyers, CRAs like Experian fail to meet these requirements frequently. This is likely why the FCRA empowers consumers to fight back by requiring Experian (and other CRAs) to pay for your legal expenses when you successfully challenge errors in reporting via lawsuit. We don’t get paid for the case if we don't win.
So, when we say you pay nothing out of pocket for our legal services, we mean it!
Why does my Experian credit report say I’m deceased?
When Experian uses algorithms to search, gather, review, refine, and report consumer data, it pulls from various sources. Among these sources are data furnishers, which are the companies you have direct relationships with, such as credit card companies, banks, mortgage lenders, and service providers. The data from their financial records is mined and sold to CRAs. There are also third-party companies that scan municipal records and sell the data to CRAs.
Processes involving this many data streams from this many sources are rife with error, especially since Experian (and other CRAs) has little incentive to improve the review and refinement process because human review costs much more than simple algorithms.
Within this web of data, the most likely causes of an Experian deceased error on a credit report are:
- Input errors: Identifying details like names, dates, locations, birthdates, etc., entered into systems at the data furnisher level (for instance, at your credit card company) can be input erroneously. These seemingly innocuous mistakes can balloon into outsized problems quickly as they get picked up and re-reported by other companies. This is especially true for an Experian death notification, which can spread like wildfire.
Data entry errors made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) concerning your Social Security Number (SSN) can be particularly egregious because they typically result in your SSN being mistakenly entered into the Death Master File.
- Death of co-signer or shared account holder: The actual death of a shared account holder or a loan co-signer can result in your fictitious death. For instance, if Experian’s protocols fail to catch that the death associated with your savings account was not your death but your spouse’s, parent’s, or business partner’s death, you may be mistakenly identified as deceased by Experian, and this error will be marked in your profile.
This can lead to an expansion of the problem quickly if the SSA gets notified.
- Mixed or Co-mingled Files: Mixed or co-mingled files are credit files that inadvertently contain information about two or more unaffiliated individuals rather than one person. This surprisingly common error occurs when situations arise that are not easily distinguishable without human review.
For instance, the data from two people with the same name and same birthdate, who are otherwise distinguishable (different SSNs and living on opposite coasts), can get rolled into a single report. Mixed files may go undetected for years until something as drastic as an Experian deceased credit report pops onto your radar at an inopportune time.
- Identity Theft Errors: Identity theft (accessing and stealing data and documentation related to another person’s identity) and identity fraud (using that other person’s identity to engage in unauthorized financial transactions) are crimes that can have broad and devastating financial implications for consumers. Not only can this illicit activity generate data errors and circumstances that impact your creditworthiness and financial profile, but it can also cause you to be mistakenly reported as deceased by Experian.
To prevent identity theft and fraud, you should use best practices to maintain your online privacy and security, such as avoiding questionable public Wi-Fi connections and being very careful about giving out personal information. The federal government advises on how best to prevent this type of fraudulent activity. Identity theft | USAGov.
Where does it say on my Experian credit report that I am deceased?
The deceased indicator on your Experian credit report is located within the information for each account listed. If you have an Experian death notification, you will find the marker next to each account under the heading “responsible party.”
For instance, instead of listing your name as the “responsible party” on your bank account, it will say “deceased.”
What to do if Experian Lists You as Deceased
You should consult with a consumer protection lawyer as soon as you know that Experian has prepared a credit report for deceased consumers in your name. With the proper legal guidance, you’ll learn how to handle the dispute process and navigate the frequent pitfalls, roadblocks, and stalls that occur. Plus, you’ll already be established with a lawyer if you have to file a lawsuit to correct this error and seek compensation.
For detailed insight into the dispute process, see below.
Experian Notification of Death
When one or several of these errors combined impact your credit report, you can receive an Experian Notification of Death. When there is a legitimate death, Experian sends this notification to the family of the deceased to inform them that the consumer’s credit profile has been marked accordingly. If you receive an Experian death notification, you should reach out to a consumer protection lawyer right away and begin the dispute process as quickly as possible.
Why You Need to Fix This Error
While numerous data errors appear on credit reports, a false deceased indicator can be especially problematic. This is primarily because of the security protocols that financial institutions implement when a consumer is legitimately dead.
When someone associated with an account or credit profile is correctly flagged as deceased, these institutions lock down lines of credit and freeze assets. This includes banks, retirement accounts, credit cards, lines of credit, loan applications, mortgage pre-approvals, rental and housing prospects, employment opportunities, etc. Preventing access to these things prevents fraud because criminals (or even family members) see a reported death as an opportunity to gain unauthorized access to credit or assets.
In addition, whether the error begins with the Social Security Administration or becomes aware of your “death” via another entity, once it includes your Social Security Number in its Death Master File, the financial repercussions move quickly. Without access to bank accounts or credit cards, bills go unpaid, and debt collectors can get involved.
So, being falsely flagged as deceased can quickly become a financial nightmare.
How to Dispute a Death on an Experian Credit Report
If this error impacts your life, there are three basic phases to correcting a false death designation on your Experian credit report:
- Dispute: You must file a formal dispute of the death indicator error.
- Authentication: You must go through a formal identity validation to confirm that the report of your demise is an error.
- Lawsuit: Your attorney will guide you on when and if a lawsuit is necessary to seek error correction or compensation.
Each of these phases is discussed in greater detail below.
Correcting a Deceased Indicator on Your Credit Report
- Consult with a consumer protection lawyer. When Experian mistakenly reports you as deceased, speaking with a consumer protection lawyer is wise. An experienced lawyer, such as our team members at Consumer Attorneys, is well-versed in the tangle of federal and state laws implicated in these situations.
- Review your credit profile. Review your Experian credit report thoroughly, identifying any other inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or misleading information. If you discovered the mistaken deceased indicator in your Experian report because you were denied an opportunity (loan, job, housing) based on it, then Experian must provide you with a copy of the report.
You should also review your reports from Equifax and TransUnion, noting any inaccuracy in your credit history, including a false death indicator. The law enables you to request a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau once annually.
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 www.annualcreditreport.com. Online requests should only be made through the above government-verified site.
- Dispute the error with Experian. Experian provides a process for filing a dispute and enables you to do so via mail or an online platform. We always advise clients to use the postal option, sending everything (dispute letter and documentation) via certified mail. Use of the online platforms frequently requires you to agree to terms and conditions that include waiving your right to file a lawsuit against Experian.
It is generally not advisable to waive your right to a lawsuit at the outset of a dispute. Preserving this right is in your best interest since you may need to file a lawsuit to achieve a satisfactory resolution or get compensation for financial and emotional injuries.
Additionally, keep detailed notes, including dates, times, names, and a catalog of every document sent to dispute this error.
- Dispute the error with the SSA. If the SSA has mistakenly added your SSN to the Death Master File, you will need to dispute this directly with the SSA. Since identity verification is central to this dispute, an in-person authentication process at your local SSA office is required. The SSA keeps an updated list of the documents you must provide to verify your status as living. Online Services | SSA: Only original documents (not copies) are acceptable.
- Provide documentation. Experian and the SSA will specify which documents satisfy their authentication process.
In theory, the documents should clear up the deceased error, satisfy the identity verification requirements, and restore your credit. However, in real life, this is frequently not the case, especially if the false deceased indicator has spread widely among your various accounts.
- Work with a consumer protection lawyer. Yes, the law indeed requires Experian and any other CRA and data furnisher to resolve the deceased error promptly, but this is frequently not what happens. The discrepancy between the expectations set forth in the law and the reality consumers live is real. Consumers commonly find themselves trapped in a dead-end cycle of insufficient and inadequate investigation and remediation.
If you haven’t been working with a consumer protection lawyer all along (which we recommend from day one), now is the time to make the connection.
Benefits of Professional Legal Support at Consumer Attorneys
When combatting this error, the difference between going it alone and working with a knowledgeable and experienced consumer protection lawyer is like the difference between night and day. Though the process for resolving a false death alert on your Experian report should be straightforward, it is frequently fraught with challenges.
What does the law say?
The FCRA (and its state-level counterparts) attempts to provide fairly comprehensive protections for consumers who find themselves in this tricky situation. You have the right to review your credit reports, dispute the errors, file a lawsuit, and get compensation. Experian (or any other CRA or data furnisher) is legally obligated to provide a dispute system, act promptly according to legally determined time frames, investigate and resolve errors, and pay for your legal expenses if you file a lawsuit and win.
Interestingly, because being falsely reported as deceased can have such tremendous repercussions for people, the law gives you the right to sue for this error even if you don’t sustain any major harm. Typically, someone might have to demonstrate a certain degree of harm before a lawsuit is warranted, but for an erroneous death notification, the very act of reporting it is the harm. Compensation can be sought for any damages that you incur as a result.
How does a lawyer help?
At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers do this all day, every day. We know the FCRA and any other relevant federal and state laws in the state where you live. We know your rights under the law, Experian’s legal obligations, the timing of the process, and all of the classic problems that arise. We also know that experiencing something like this can be devastating, particularly if you’re one of the unlucky consumers whose assets and accounts are frozen or who experience prolonged periods without sufficient remediation.
Our lawyers have over seventy-five years of combined experience practicing consumer protection law, fighting for the rights of consumers under the FCRA, and holding Experian and other CRAs accountable for their errors.
Working with an Experian dispute lawyer at Consumer Attorneys means you will have access to a knowledgeable and professional guide from the first step to the final. And we can get you compensation to make you whole again.
Beware Credit Repair Companies
So-called credit repair companies are all over the internet, marketing themselves as an easy means of correcting credit errors and an alternative to working with a lawyer. Typically, you guarantee them an amount of money upfront, and they don’t guarantee you anything, not even a successful resolution to your false Experian deceased notification. In other words, you may pay them out of pocket and not even get a deceased error correction.
Plus, what they don’t tell you is that if you work with a consumer protection lawyer to resolve a false deceased indicator, you:
- Pay nothing. Ever.
- Get high-level guidance from someone with extensive legal training, knowledge, and experience.
- Work with a professional who is bound by the highest degree of legal and ethical standards of excellence.
- Are primed to sue Experian for resolution and compensation if it comes to that.
We’re not just another company looking to cash in on your bad luck. We’re the people that the FCRA empowered to help you when errors like this occur. In fact, if you use a consumer protection lawyer to fight this battle, the FCRA makes Experian pay all of our costs and fees so that you don’t have to because the law recognizes that everyone has a right to top-tier legal representation and that consumers injured by sloppy mistakes shouldn’t have to pay to correct them. Experian will pay for their errors because you already paid a cost in time, energy, and financial and emotional well-being.
How Much Does it Cost?
Working with Consumer Attorneys to correct your false deceased designation costs you zero dollars.
You will not pay out of pocket for the consultation, the legal guidance and advice, or the error resolution and compensation. By law, if we sue Experian on your behalf for a false deceased designation and we win, Experian must pay all of our legal fees and costs. If we don’t win, you pay nothing.
We have the same incentive as you to ensure that Experian is responsive, thorough, timely, and held to account.
Ask for Our Help Now
We can take it from here. In fact, no matter how far along you are in the error dispute process, we’ve got this. Consumer Attorneys has a nationwide presence, with lawyers anywhere you need us to be.
We look forward to helping you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Experian find out someone is deceased?
Under usual circumstances, Experian finds out that someone is deceased when it receives notification from the Social Security Administration, a data furnisher (credit card company, bank, lender, service provider, or similar), or a family member of a deceased. There are protocols in place that dictate the way this deceased notice is given. When there is a false designation of deceased on a credit report, Experian may receive notice of a consumer’s purported death in error or mistakenly flag the consumer as dead based on an internal error.
What Happens if an Experian credit report says you’re deceased?
If an Experian credit report says you’re deceased, this error can have widespread consequences across your entire financial portfolio. Your assets (savings, checking, and other accounts) can be frozen, credit lines and applications are terminated or rejected, and employment opportunities are halted or denied. This is particularly true if the error originates with the Social Security Administration or is eventually picked up by the SSA. For this reason, being falsely designated as dead is a particularly egregious credit reporting error. Accordingly, federal law permits you to bring a lawsuit for the inaccurate reporting of your demise, independent of the degree of harm you sustain as a result.
What does it mean when Experian reports you as deceased?
When Experian reports you as deceased, it means one of three things: (1) One or several accounts in your financial profile have marked the responsible party as deceased in error, (2) The Social Security Administration has marked you as deceased in error and listed your Social Security Number among those in the Death Master File, or (3) Experian has created the error itself in the gathering, processing, and reporting of your consumer data. Whether Experian created the error or is simply repeating the error, it is liable for failing to sufficiently implement review protocols that would have and should have picked up on the fact that you are alive or, at a minimum, that further investigation was warranted.
Can I sue Experian for reporting me deceased?
Yes, you can. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to file a lawsuit against any consumer reporting agency, such as Experian, when it reports you as deceased in error. In fact, this error is considered to be so significant that you are empowered to sue for the very act of misreporting your death, regardless of whether you sustained harsh financial and emotional damages. If you discover that you have been reported as deceased by Experian or any other company or agency, you should contact Consumer Attorneys immediately. One of our lawyers will listen, advise, and guide you on the best steps to take in your situation and your state. The consultation is free, and if we take your case, so are the legal services!