If You're Mistakenly Marked Deceased on a Credit Report, the Best Way to a Full Recovery is with a Credit Report Lawyer.
Did a credit report inform you that you’re dead? If you’re researching what to do now that “My credit report says I am deceased,” then you’re already well aware that these mistakes happen. As absurd as it seems, proving you’re alive is now your number one job.
Being erroneously marked as deceased on your credit report is a serious error that can snowball from one account into an adverse impact across your entire financial portfolio. Knowing your legal rights, how to enforce them, and who can help you is absolutely vital.
At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers have helped thousands of people nationwide successfully fix errors, including being mistakenly marked as deceased. Our lawyers know how to help consumers protect their rights, restore their credit scores, and fully recover financially and emotionally.
I’ll explain how these deceased reporting errors happen, how to dispute them, how the law protects you, and how to get compensation for financial and emotional harm. Keep reading to get informed, then call or contact us today.
What does a “Deceased” Indicator Mean?
The deceased indicator meaning is pretty straightforward in the consumer reporting world. A deceased indicator is a notation on a credit report stating that the consumer is dead. It appears as the actual word “deceased,” and appears next to either a lone account or as a designation across your entire credit portfolio. It can also mean that your name has mistakenly been entered into the Master Death File at the Social Security Administration (SSA).
SSN Reported as Deceased
In any given year, approximately 12,000+ American consumers discover that their social security number is mistakenly reported as deceased. When this happens, it means that the Social Security Administration (SSA) mistakenly added it to the Death Master File. The latter is a database the SSA maintains with the names and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of everyone who died in a given calendar year.
If your SSN is entered into the DMF, the consequences can be sweeping across all of your financial accounts, so act quickly to dispute and correct this. (See below for more information.)
Why Does My Credit Report Say I’m Deceased
At Consumer Attorneys, because of our experience as lawyers practicing in the area of consumer protection law, we know that when a consumer is deceased on a credit report, even though they’re very much alive and well, it is almost always due to a data error. The only other way that a deceased indicator shows up is through identity theft and fraud. See below for detailed insight into either of these possibilities.
Do I Need a Credit Freeze if I’m Reported As Deceased?
No, you do not need to request a credit freeze if you are falsely reported as deceased. A credit freeze is an important security tool used to close down access to credit (such as mortgages, auto loans, or credit cards) when a consumer dies. This is necessary because some fraudsters monitor obituaries for recently deceased consumers and then attempt to access credit in that person’s name before the credit bureaus and banks are notified of the passing.
However, when you have been mistakenly declared dead on your credit profile, you will experience the opposite concern. Banks, lenders, credit card companies, and service providers will likely freeze or close accounts independently, believing you to be dead.
You will engage with the credit bureaus and the SSA to dispute the error and clear your record, but requesting a freeze is not a necessary part of the process. Rather, you will go through a formal dispute and verification process to confirm your identity and vitality.
Why Does My Credit Report Say I’m Deceased?
There are several reasons why there might be a deceased indicator on a credit report (see below), but the origin of every cause is essentially the same- the consumer data industry is saturated with data, and the companies that buy and sell that data as a commodity do not implement the proper safeguards to ensure accuracy.
So, when a credit report says a consumer is deceased, you’ll have to know how to prove you are not deceased.
How to Find Out if I’m Labeled Deceased with a Credit Bureau
Typically, consumers learn that they’re reported as deceased because they receive condolences from a business (such as a retail store), they receive a failed credit check, get turned down for an opportunity (such as a loan, purchase, employment, or housing), or discover the error on their own while reviewing their credit report.
If you suspect that you may have been mistakenly reported as deceased on a credit report from one or all of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion), you should check your credit report from each. By law, you can review your credit reports weekly without any out-of-pocket cost. Also, with nearly one-third of people discovering mistakes in their consumer reports at some point, it is an incredibly good idea to get in the habit of doing these checks with regularity.
There are three ways to review your credit reports: 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 this government-verified site.
The Business of Consumer Data
To understand how these deceased consumer report errors happen, it helps to understand the consumer data industry, which is an enormous web of companies that buy and sell consumer data for profit. This data is packaged and marketed as consumer financial products, such as credit reports.
You likely know Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion as the credit bureaus that produce the credit reports you’re used to seeing. These credit bureaus are the three largest and most often used among many lesser-known consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). The CRAs buy, review, and compile consumer information from other companies known as data furnishers because they furnish (provide) the data.
The data furnishers are the companies you have a direct relationship with, such as banks, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, auto finance lenders, and service providers. In addition, data also comes from third-party companies that scan and pull consumer information from municipal records (such as court, tax, and property records) to package and sell to the CRAs.
Because a single credit report pulls from this broad selection of data streams, there is a significant opportunity for error, which is a shockingly common occurrence. Being mistakenly designated as deceased is one of the many errors that can appear.
The broad scope of this web of information is also why fixing a mistaken deceased designation is important and why working with an attorney is extremely helpful. At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers are ready to help you from day one or any step in the process.
How A False Deceased Designation Happens
In the consumer data industry, errors are common. Whether the error takes the form of wrongful information about assets and debts or about you being deceased, it all comes into existence the same ways:
- Input error: When data is entered into a system associated with one of your accounts, it can be entered erroneously. For instance, dates and numbers can be confused or omitted, names misspelled, or locations wrongly listed. Input errors in a certain context can flag you as deceased.
When it comes to the false deceased indicator in a credit report, input errors made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are also a significant source of these mistakes.
- Co-signer death: If you hold or have held any joint or affiliated accounts (whether personal or business), the death of your co-signer can inadvertently flag you as deceased. A lawyer can help clear up the discrepancy.
- Mixed Files: Are you thinking that maybe a CRA is “confusing my credit with a deceased person?“ Well, you might be right. “Mixed files” refers to a credit profile on a single individual that mistakenly contains data from one or more other individuals.
Input errors or poor data-gathering protocols by the CRAs can cause mixed files. The algorithms used to locate and collect consumer data can co-mingle data from different consumers due to similarities in name, location, birth date, etc.
If your information is mixed with that of someone deceased, you can inadvertently be flagged as deceased as well. By law, the CRAs should prevent this from happening, but it is a frequent occurrence anyway. Working with an attorney is your best bet for untangling this mess.
- Identity Theft: If you’re falsely marked as dead due to identity theft and fraud, it means that the data error that erroneously flagged you as deceased is due to criminal activity that caused confusion and misinformation concerning your data. If you are the victim of identity theft, you are potentially at risk for even far more sweeping and impactful consequences and should strongly consider working with a lawyer. Read our article on identity theft and how an attorney can help here: Identity Theft Lawyers
What to do If a Credit Bureau Lists Me as Deceased
Wondering what to do if a “credit bureau says I’m deceased?” Take quick action!
If a credit bureau lists you as deceased, you will need to prove that you are still a living, breathing, creditworthy consumer through a process of formal dispute, documentation, and identity verification.
Whether or not you work with an attorney (which we recommend), you must follow the dispute guidelines and requirements for the credit bureaus (or other CRAs) and the Social Security Administration, as explained below.
And you may need to consider filing a “mistakenly reported as deceased lawsuit.”
How to Remove a Deceased Indicator from My Credit File
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 lawyer. 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. A lawyer will explain the process, guide you through it, protect your rights, and hold the CRAs, furnishers, SSA, and third-party entities accountable for their legal obligations. A lawyer can also seek compensation for any financial and emotional injuries you sustained as a result.
- Undergo a detailed credit review. Obtain free copies of your credit reports from each credit bureau 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.
You always have the right to access a free weekly credit report from each of the big three CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. (See above for how to access your reports.)
- File a dispute. Follow the protocols outlined by the CRAs or the SSA to formally dispute this error and seek a correction. Please see below for more detailed information and note our advice to dispute via certified mail rather than an online portal.
- Provide documentation. Providing adequate documentation is critical to disputing a false death designation because this dispute hinges on the authentication of your identity as a vital and functioning human being (rather than a ghost).
Theoretically, once your identity validation is complete, 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 by 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.
How to Dispute a Death Listed on a Credit Report
Are you wondering, “What should I do if a credit bureau is reporting me as deceased?” Or, “What should I do if a credit agency is reporting me as dead?”
To begin with, you must dispute any inaccurate data in your credit profile with the credit bureau(s) reporting the error and with the Social Security Administration (if the error is reported there as well).
Dispute With the Credit Bureaus
Even if the deceased designation error only exists with one outdated account, filing a dispute with the credit bureau(s) reporting the error gives formal notice that the data leading to you being reported as dead is false. Again, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau (see above for specific details about how to do this) to review and identify all reporting errors before filing a dispute.
To file a dispute, you will follow the guidelines outlined by the credit bureau(s) online. If only one credit bureau is reporting you as deceased (whether on a single account or your entire profile), you only need to dispute with that bureau. If the errors impact all three credit reports, you must directly dispute with each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
Why We Recommend Filing Your Dispute Via Certified Mail
The credit bureaus and other CRAs may provide an online dispute platform made available to consumers who wish to dispute information in a credit report. However, using an online platform frequently requires you to waive your right to bring a lawsuit. It is generally not in your best interest to waive your right to file a lawsuit at the outset of the dispute process. So, we strongly recommend disputing false death designations (and any other error) via certified mail. In addition, certified mail keeps you in control of the documentation confirming that you sent, and the credit bureau(s) received, the dispute package.
Send a Certified Letter and Marked Up Copies of Supporting Documents
Generally, filing a dispute will involve sending a dispute letter that identifies all entries on your credit report that are inaccurate, misleading, or false. In the case of false deceased indicators, this may apply to a designation across your entire credit profile. Be clear, precise, and thorough.
Send copies of supporting documentation, including a copy of your credit report with highlighted areas of dispute that are clearly marked and referenced in the letter. Request that the disputed entries/indicators be investigated and corrected. If you do not hear back from the credit bureau within 30 days of receipt of your certified letter, contact Consumer Attorneys.
Being reported as deceased is grounds for a lawsuit.
Notably, if a credit bureau or other CRA is reporting you as deceased, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit even if the bureau 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. So, CRAs are not necessarily without fault or liability just because they correct their reports 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
Dispute With the Social Security Administration
If you are mistakenly reported dead by a credit bureau, you should check your status with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the SSA is falsely reporting your death, you must dispute this directly with the SSA. It is not enough to simply dispute the error with the credit bureaus.
The SSA records the death of everyone issued a Social Security Number (SSN) in a Death Master File (DMF). If the SSA is falsely reporting you as deceased, it means that your SSN has erroneously made its way into the DMF. When this happens, you will need to go through a formal identity verification process to have your SSN removed from the DMF.
Filing a formal dispute to remove yourself from the DMF requires an in-person authentication process at your nearest SSA office. Please note that copies of documents are not sufficient. You will need originals for everything.
Once the SSA confirms the error, 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.
How an Attorney Can Help When Your Credit Report Says You’re Deceased
If you’ve been losing sleep because of any of these stress-inducing declarations that we’re used to hearing, our lawyers can help.
- My credit report account says I’m dead!
- A credit bureau declares me deceased!
- The SSA lists me as deceased!
Being falsely reported dead on an account, a credit report, or the SSA is distressing. We get it.
As litigators and advocates, this is what we do.
The legal practice of fighting back against inaccurate, misleading, and false information in your credit reports is called consumer protection law, and it’s what we do every day. If you’re mistakenly flagged as deceased, a consumer protection lawyer is your best asset in fighting and winning this complicated battle.
The Consequences of Being Reported as Deceased
When you are falsely flagged as deceased, the consequences can be severe. This is primarily because when companies and lenders believe you’re dead, accounts are typically frozen or closed to prevent fraud.
For instance, if you applied for credit and your credit application came back with a death mistake, your credit will be denied for that application, and you could also:
- Lose access to all credit accounts, such as credit cards, lines of credit, home equity, or other personal loans.
- Lose access to other pending opportunities, such as mortgage approvals, auto finance applications, and employment or educational opportunities.
- Lose access to assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.
- Lose access to government benefits like social security, healthcare, and Medicaid.
- Lose access to services.
State and Federal Law Protects You
The federal government enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to ensure that consumers have rights and protections when it comes to the gathering and reporting of consumer data. It also puts legal obligations on the CRAs and data furnishers to use a duty of care in collecting and reporting data and investigating data disputes over inaccurate, misleading, or false data. And it allows consumers to seek compensation if the FCRA is violated.
Being falsely flagged as deceased is an error that falls within the scope of the FCRA. Other federal and state legislation may also be implicated by the facts of your particular situation.
Deceased reporting attorneys know how to work within the framework of these federal and state laws to remove the deceased indicator from your profile.
Credit Report Lawyers Protect You
Working with a lawyer who has handled every aspect of these types of cases is how you maximally protect yourself. At Consumer Attorneys, our highly experienced lawyers will help you:
- find resolution;
- correct deceased designation errors;
- restore access to credit and assets;
- overcome stalls, delays, and roadblocks;
- protect your rights;
- hold the responsible parties accountable;
- push back on insufficient and inadequate investigations;
- enforce statutory time restrictions;
- prevent further damages from continued reporting;
- get compensation for your financial and emotional damages.
Our law firm practices nationwide. So, when a false deceased indicator threatens your livelihood and well-being, we’re always right where you need us to be.
In addition, we also have a nationwide attorney referral network. This means that when you call to speak to one of our lawyers for a consultation, if we don’t have a lawyer practicing in the state where you live, we can still put you in contact with a top-notch, experienced lawyer in your local area.
What You Need to Know Before Contacting Lawyers
The only thing you need to know is that “The credit bureau thinks I’m dead, but I’m alive!”
Before you contact an attorney, you only need to know that you have been reported as deceased on a credit report. Whether the deceased error is coming from a data furnisher or one of the credit bureaus, you can contact a lawyer for a consultation as soon as you are aware of the mistake.
At Consumer Attorneys, our attorneys will guide you through every step of the process, explaining exactly what you need to do and offering nuanced legal advice to optimally protect your rights.
If a credit bureau declares you dead and you have already begun gathering documents and data to dispute the error before contacting us, that is not a problem. Any additional information will certainly be helpful during your consultation with a lawyer, but it is unnecessary. Our lawyers can guide you from the first step in the process through to the last, or they can join you at any point in the process if you’ve already gotten things underway before contacting a lawyer.
Please be aware that if you plan to dispute the deceased errors without a lawyer, we recommend filing any disputes and providing documentation via certified mail rather than using an online dispute platform. This is because using the online platform frequently requires you to agree to terms and conditions that are not in your best interest, such as waiving your right to sue. Waiving any legal rights at the outset of a dispute, without knowing how it will turn out, is generally not advisable. And, as attorneys highly experienced in this area of the law, we know that lawsuits are sometimes the only way to a successful resolution.
Navigating these nuanced pitfalls is one reason working with a deceased reporting lawyer will benefit you.
Can I Sue Someone Who Reported Me Dead?
If your credit report says you’re dead, but you’re alive, you can file a lawsuit.
Your attorney will sue any parties responsible for causing you financial or emotional harm. This may include CRAs (including the credit bureaus) and data furnishers. Any entity within the web of consumer data that falsely reports you as deceased in violation of federal and state law is potentially liable. In addition, any entity that does not adequately, effectively, or timely investigate the deceased designation dispute and make all necessary corrections is also potentially liable.
However, companies that act in reliance on the information in your credit report will not necessarily be liable. For instance, if a mortgage lender denies a mortgage approval because your credit report indicates that you’re deceased, the lender is not necessarily liable because it simply relies in good faith on the information it received. But if the lender then shares the erroneous deceased information with other entities, it may be liable for that act.
After a comprehensive review of your case, your lawyer will identify all parties legally liable for reporting or failing to correct the deceased designation in your profile. At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers have years of experience making these types of determinations.
Compensation You Will Get After Suing
When you are harmed financially and emotionally by errors such as being falsely marked as deceased in your credit report, the FCRA (and other state and federal legislation) allows you to seek compensation. Filing a lawsuit over the deceased designation error is how to ultimately get compensated for the harm you suffered, whether the lawsuit results in a favorable verdict or a negotiated settlement.
This compensation generally includes compensatory damages (which are meant to make up for any financial or emotional injury you sustained) and punitive damages (which are meant to punish the responsible party so that this same mistake is less likely to happen again to you or another consumer).
A lawyer will assess the type of compensation you’re entitled to and analyze the amount of compensation to seek. Working with a lawyer who is experienced in relevant case law, fact patterns, settlements, and trials is important. The attorneys at Consumer Attorneys have the experience you need.
Credit Report Lawyers Fees
At Consumer Attorneys, if one of our lawyers accepts your case to dispute an erroneous deceased designation, you will never pay out of pocket for our services.
We also never charge for your initial consultation with one of our lawyers. After all, how can you know if you need an attorney until you speak to one? We get it.
In fact, if one of our lawyers decides to represent you through this type of dispute, the companies we sue pay all of our attorney costs and fees.
Trust Our Lawyers
With over seventy-five years of combined practice experience, the deceased reporting lawyers at Consumer Attorneys have helped thousands of clients with credit reporting issues, including false deceased designations. Our lawyers can help bring you back from the dead.
At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers know your rights as a consumer under federal and state law. And our lawyers know the legal obligations of the companies that harm you by falsely reporting that you’re deceased.
Plus, our attorneys aren’t just litigators; we’re consumer advocates, too. This means that when our attorneys aren’t confronting the companies responsible for your harm, they fight for consumer rights through non-profit engagement and policy initiatives. Working with a lawyer who is passionate about your rights matters.
Trust our attorneys to help clear the deceased designation from your record. Let our lawyers’ legal skills, experience, and knowledge power your win.
Contact Us When You’re Reported as Deceased On Your Credit Report
If you’ve been mistakenly marked as dead on a credit report, Consumer Attorneys can help. Our team of highly skilled and knowledgeable attorneys knows the complex legal landscape of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and similar state legislation.
Our attorneys want to hear from you today!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my credit report showing that I am deceased?
What if I was mistakenly reported as deceased on my credit report?
How do you prove you are not deceased?