It’s always distressing to be rejected for a credit line, but perhaps the worst is when you find that you’ve been reported as dead. However outrageous it may sound, this does occasionally happen, and I’ve helped several of my own clients through the process of correcting this error.
Being reported as dead can happen to those who share an account with someone who has died, namely a spouse or a family member — if you share the same last name, human error can take its toll.
What happens when a creditor reports you as deceased and you aren’t? It’s important you move quickly, and know that you’ll have to check all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — to see if any creditors have put a death notice on your report. Most of the time, these notices serve the important purpose of preventing thieves from making use of the decedent’s credit, but in this case, it’s important that you correct the error as soon as possible before more institutions you rely on assume you are no longer in need of their services.
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To fix such an egregious error on your report, you’ll need to do some legwork:
1. Obtain a report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Read through them to find the source of the erroneous information. Is it one account, or several accounts?
2. If it seems that some but not all of your accounts show you as deceased, notify each bureau of the mistake and provide documentation of your living status. It seems overly ironic that we must provide proof that we are alive, but it is indeed a real requirement. You should also contact the creditors to alert them to the error, too.
3. If your entire credit report is showing that you are deceased, it is likely the fault of the Social Security Administration. Go to your local SSA office as soon as possible to clear up the mistake. In all likelihood, accounts will need a letter from the SSA to reinstate your credit if the government believes you to have passed on.
It helps if you check your credit regularly so you notice any changes that indicate a potential problem. For example, if you have a “deceased” listing on your credit report, you likely won’t be considered scoreable. So if you monitor your credit scores (and there are free tools out there to help you do that; Credit.com offers one), and you’re suddenly unable to get your scores, it’s a sign to check your credit reports for any problems.
This is a distressing process, but do know that it can be corrected. The most important point to remember is to address the problem as soon as possible.