When a person dies, their credit reports are updated with a deceased indicator. In a nutshell, a deceased indicator tells the credit bureaus that the subject of one of their credit reports has died. That has important ramifications for open debt accounts, collection practices, and more.
If you notice a deceased indicator on your credit report, you need to know what to do and how to fix the issue immediately. Read on for more information.
A deceased indicator, put simply, is a marker on a credit report that marks the subject as deceased. For example, imagine that someone dies of old age. When the credit bureaus become aware of this, they each update their credit reports for the same subject so they know the person is deceased.
From that point on, the person’s credit report is essentially locked. It won’t be changed by new credit or debt information, with the exception of when any debts are paid off by the person’s estate, spouse, or some other entity.
Each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – has a slightly different credit report. Still, you can usually find a deceased indicator at the top right-hand corner or the top half of a credit report file.
When you download your credit report and look over it, any deceased indicator should be easy to see. It may be in bold letters or in a special box noting the state of the individual.
Naturally, if you are well enough to retrieve your credit report to look over it, you aren't deceased! If you see a deceased indicator on your credit report, it is a cause for concern and something you should try to fix at the earliest opportunity.
The credit bureaus, as well as the Social Security Administration, use deceased indicators for one big reason: to prevent identity theft.
Deceased indicators are helpful in telling these agencies that the subjects of those reports won't be taking out any more debts or opening any new credit accounts. But more importantly, they stop identity thieves from using the Social Security numbers and other financial information of deceased people for their own goals.
For example, an identity thief might steal a deceased person’s information to open a new credit account or take out a loan. But when the loan underwriter pulls the credit report for the individual, they determine that the person is supposed to be deceased. Then, they can block the identity thief from illegally getting access to financial resources.
If you see a deceased indicator on your credit report, it's obviously a mistake. Unfortunately, having a mistaken deceased indicator on your credit report can have negative repercussions for your financial opportunities.
For instance, when you apply for a new loan, your credit report might come back with a deceased indicator. The loan underwriter then suspects you of identity fraud and does not approve you for the loan, despite meeting all other qualifications.
Indeed, a deceased indicator can make it difficult to secure things like car loans, mortgages, apartments, jobs that conduct financial background checks, and even security deposits for things like mobile phone lines or Internet plans.
You may see an inaccurate deceased indicator on your credit report for a variety of reasons. Human error, of course, can affect anyone. One of the agents for the big credit bureaus might simply have inadvertently marked your credit report with a deceased indicator by accident. This might be more common if you have a very common name and someone with a similar name to you recently passed.
Regardless of the cause, you should take immediate steps to resolve the issue to free up your financial opportunities and prevent your credit score from plummeting.
Luckily, you can fix inaccurate deceased indicators on your credit reports with the same basic process by which you can fix any credit report error.
First, take a long look at each credit report from the credit bureaus. If one of your credit reports has a deceased indicator, the other credit reports might as well. Since each of the three credit bureaus draws up a separate report for you, you’ll need to settle the matter with each bureau individually.
Not sure whether you can get access to your credit reports? The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to one free credit report from each credit bureau every year, so feel free to request a report from the bureaus via their official websites.
Next, you should file a dispute letter with each credit bureau that has a compromised report. You can do this by phone, by physical mail, or online. Filing a dispute letter online is recommended as it will result in a faster turnaround time and response from the credit bureaus.
Once a credit bureau receives a dispute letter from you, it has 30 days to investigate the issue and correct any erroneous information under penalty of legal action. Therefore, simply telling a credit bureau that you are alive and the deceased indicator is erroneous is usually enough to get the job done.
That said, you’ll need to supply substantiating evidence with your dispute letter, like proof of your address, a copy of your birth certificate, and so on. Legal experts may be able to help you gather the evidence you need to settle this matter promptly, so consider contacting them at the beginning of this process.
If one or more of your credit reports has a deceased indicator, you should file a dispute letter with the appropriate credit bureaus right away. Solving the issue quickly is crucial so you qualify for important loans and other financial opportunities. If the credit bureaus don’t update their records promptly, you could have grounds for legal action – contact Fair Credit today.