Every American who pays bills, takes out credit, or has other financial activity on record has a credit report and associated credit score. When someone dies, that credit report gets a final update and the deceased person's credit score goes to zero.
But what if you were mistakenly reported dead on your credit report? In that case, you’ll need to contact the credit bureau(s) that made the error and get it corrected ASAP. Let’s take a closer look at what to do if you are mistakenly reported as deceased on your credit report.
Yes, unfortunately. From time to time, credit agencies, credit furnishers, and even the Social Security Administration can make mistakes. In some cases, those mistakes can be quite severe, up to and including mistakenly reporting someone as dead when they’re still very much alive.
If your credit report marks you as dead, you may notice that you have a credit score of zero when previously you had a credit score in the triple digits. Alternatively, your credit report might have a "deceased" note somewhere in its file, which may or may not be visible to you.
In the latter situation, you might notice your "zero" credit score but not know that it's because the credit agency thinks you are deceased.
When you’re mistakenly reported as dead by a credit agency, you might encounter a number of problems, including:
This can happen if they mistake your identity for someone else’s, like a deceased person
Given these possibilities, it’s a good idea to get the mistake corrected as quickly as possible. The sooner you correct the credit bureaus’ records, the sooner you can get back to your normal life.
Credit bureaus and agencies can make this egregious mistake in a few different ways.
For example, the Social Security Administration may improperly update its “Death Master File,” which includes records of all deceased people with social security numbers. It may make this mistake if you share a name with another person or if you have a similar Social Security number to another individual.
Similarly, one or several of the big credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – may confuse you with another person in their records. If your name is John D. Smith, and there’s another John D. Smith in their records who dies, they may simply accidentally update the wrong record and assign the “death” status to your credit report.
As you can see, being mistakenly reported dead on your credit report is usually the result of your identity being confused with another person’s.
No, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act states that consumer reporting agencies like credit bureaus have legal obligations to create and maintain their records with as much accuracy as possible. So while it's not illegal for a credit agency to make a mistake, it is illegal for them to refuse to correct the mistake when it is brought to their attention.
If you’ve been mistakenly reported as deceased on your credit report and a credit agency refuses to update its records, you could be entitled to compensation.
Even though being mistakenly reported as dead on your credit report can be a major headache, you can fix the issue by taking a few steps. The faster you take these steps, the faster your records will be updated.
First, contact any credit bureaus with incorrect records. Each credit bureau maintains its own records and creates a distinct credit report, so you may need to check your credit report for all three. If you only have access to one credit report, contact the other two credit bureaus anyway to check and see if they have the same false records errors.
When you contact the credit bureaus, you need to have as much evidence of your identity as possible. Depending on the bureau's policies, you may need to mail, scan and email, or otherwise provide multiple pieces of information proving you are who you say you are before it updates its records.
Try to get:
If possible, contact the Social Security Administration first. If the SSA updates its records, it may be able to provide records to one or all three of the credit bureaus proving your identity.
Now it’s time to submit your evidence to the credit bureau(s). At this stage, all you need to do is wait.
How long? Credit bureaus usually take a few weeks to go through everything and draft a response. If you’ve put together enough evidence, they should get back to you with an apology and an update to your credit score.
What if they don’t agree with your claim? In that case, continue to communicate with the bureaus and get in touch with legal assistants.
Being mistakenly reported as dead on your credit report can be frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult. But it’s not impossible to overcome. Contact the credit agencies with the error right away, and don’t hesitate to reach out to legal professionals if needed.