You can’t blame a lender who turns you down for a loan because your credit report says you died. Credit bureaus flag accounts when they receive a report that a person died to prevent identity theft and fraud. In 2012, MSN Money said about 1,000 people each month were incorrectly reported to credit bureaus as deceased by the Social Security Administration, and that doesn't include mistakes by lenders and the credit bureaus themselves. When you’re still alive, this is more than a little inconvenient, so fixing the mistake is a priority. Be prepared to be patient. The fix takes some time and effort.
Order copies of your credit report from all three credit-reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Review each report to determine where the death notice appears. The notice may apply to just one credit account or to the entire report.
Find out who made the erroneous death report if it applies to the whole credit report. This information may be on the credit report. If not, you’ll need to contact the credit bureau to check. Typically, death notices that aren’t limited to a single account come from an estate executor or the Social Security Administration and most often happen when a spouse passes away and records are muddled.
Contact the Social Security Administration and ask for a letter verifying that you are still alive if the SSA was the sender of the death notification. The credit bureaus are likely to require this letter as documentation when the SSA is involved. You can call the Social Security Administration toll free at 800-772-1213.
File a dispute with the credit bureau asking that the incorrect death notice be removed. You can start a dispute by phone or by using the credit bureau’s online tools. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you also send a letter stating the problem. Include your Social Security number and a photocopy of a current photo ID such as your driver’s license. If the faulty report came from the Social Security Administration, include a copy of the letter you requested. Send only photocopies and keep the originals of all documents.
Send the letter and supporting documents to the credit bureau. The FTC suggests you use certified mail and ask for a return receipt to verify that your dispute letter was received. Include a copy of your credit report with the death notice circled or highlighted.
You can order one free copy of your credit report per year from each credit-reporting agency through the Federal Trade Commission’s authorized agent, AnnualCreditReport.com.
- MSN Money: Denied Credit? Maybe You’re Dead
- Bankrate.com: Fix Credit Report When It Says You’re Dead
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Credit Reports
- Social Security: Contact Social Security by Phone
- Federal Trade Commission. "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act," Pages 1-3. Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Free Credit Reports." Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Credit Reports Are Now Free, Every Week." Accessed Oct. 29. 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "If a Credit Reporting Error Is Corrected, How Long Will It Take Before I Find Out the Results?" Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Fair Credit Reporting Act," Page 70. Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Fair Credit Reporting Act," Page 52. Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Consumer Reports: What Information Furnishers Need to Know." Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Reserve. "Credit Reports and Credit Scores," Page 1214. Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Disputing Errors on Credit Reports." Accessed Oct. 29, 2020.
- You can order one free copy of your credit report per year from each credit-reporting agency through the Federal Trade Commission’s authorized agent, AnnualCreditReport.com.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.