When you went to apply for a mortgage or auto loan, you may have been disturbed to discover that you were mistakenly reported as deceased on your credit report. Thousands of people are wrongly reported as dead on their credit reports every year.
This can happen for a variety of reasons but is usually the result of the credit bureaus confusing you with someone who died. This may be because they have you confused with a family member who died, a joint account holder who died, or a complete stranger who just happens to have a similar name, Social Security number, or another personal identifier.
Being wrongly reported as dead can have devastating consequences for you. Most lenders will not lend to someone who any of the three major credit bureaus are reporting as dead. This makes it critical that you correct any credit report as soon as possible. The credit report lawyers at Berger Montague can help you fix these mistakes and even pursue money damages.
Is Being Reported as Dead by a Credit Agency Illegal?
Under Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumer reporting agencies have an obligation to use reasonable procedures to ensure “maximum possible accuracy” in their reports. For that reason, falsely reporting a consumer as deceased is likely a violation of federal law and entitles you to sue the consumer reporting agency.
When credit bureaus mistakenly report someone as dead but have not taken steps to verify this information, they are violating the FCRA. And they can be held accountable for failure to do their due diligence. Berger Montague has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of consumers falsely reported as dead.
Because of the devastating impact that this kind of false reporting can have, these cases can be valuable, with some settlements being well over $100,000 per bureau. While every case is different, you would probably be surprised at how valuable your case can be.
How Your Life Could Be Affected When Reported as Deceased on Your Credit Report
When you are mistakenly reported as being deceased, instead of having whatever credit score you had prior to this mistake, your credit score will functionally plummet to zero because the bureau that is reporting you as dead will refuse to issue any score on you at all. When this happens, your entire life could be affected in a number of ways, including:
- Preventing you from obtaining a mortgage
- Stopping you from getting a credit card
- student loans or personal loans
- Making it impossible to get health insurance
- Being banned from opening a new bank account
- Stopping you from being able to obtain a copy of your own credit report
- Creditors believing you are trying to commit identity theft by using the identity of a dead person
In fact, you may not even be aware that you have mistakenly been reported as dead on your credit report until you attempt to do one of the above. For this reason, it is essential that you reach out to a credit report lawyer for help correcting these errors.
How Can Your Credit Report Indicate You Are Deceased?
The primary way your credit report can indicate that you are dead is because a creditor reported you to the bureau as being deceased. This often occurs due to misinterpretations of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
This mistake is not your fault. It is the result of your creditors and the credit reporting agencies getting their facts wrong. Most often, this is because you have been mixed up with someone else who has a similar Social Security number, name, account number, or other personally-identifying information.
It is important to correct these errors as soon as possible before even more of your credit file gets mixed with the file of the person who is actually deceased.
What Happens When Your Accounts Are Reported as Deceased?
When your accounts are reported as deceased, your creditors may have made a mistake in reporting one or more accounts on your credit report or associated with someone who has passed away. This often happens when authorized users or cosigners such as spouses or other relatives die.
It can also happen, however, when a total stranger who has a similar account number or name or Social Security number dies. Another sign that you are being reported as deceased by a creditor is if your account says that it is “undesignated.”
What to Do if You Were Mistakenly Reported as Deceased
When you have been mistakenly reported as dead on your credit report, it is important to take steps to address this error. First, you need to obtain copies of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus, including TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
If your report was issued because you were trying to obtain a mortgage, the report may have been issued by a reseller, which is a company that assembles data from the three main bureaus into a single report.
Challenges of Obtaining a Credit Report Copy
Obtaining copies of your report when the report falsely says you are deceased can be challenging. One of the problems with being reported as deceased is that the bureaus may not provide you with your file, as they believe you are dead.
Another problem is that sometimes, the reports that the bureaus provide to creditors contain different information than they provide to consumers. You can try to obtain your report from annualcreditreport.com, but you may need help from a lawyer to even get basic information about who is reporting you and why.
The credit report lawyers at Berger Montague have years of experience in assisting consumers being falsely reported as dead, and can help you obtain the information you need in order to fix your problem.
Proving Your Identity
To prove your identity and that you are, in fact, living, your attorney can send the credit bureaus a notarized letter. This may include important personal information, including:
- Your current mailing address
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your Social Security number
- A statement that you are not deceased
- A letter from the Social Security Administration affirming that you are not deceased
From there, the credit bureaus will be required to investigate, update your credit report, and notify creditors accordingly. Your attorney can assist you in reporting directly to creditors and data furnishers that you are not deceased and request that your credit report accounts be updated to correct this error.
Meet With a Credit Report Lawyer Today
When being reported as dead on your credit report could have a dramatic impact on your financial accounts and creditworthiness, it is essential to take steps to address these errors and hold the credit reporting agencies accountable.
Get help from a dedicated credit report lawyer at Berger Montague. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid out of a standard percentage of your settlement or court award. You pay us nothing upfront or if we lose your case.
Similarly, the FCRA provides for fee-shifting under the statute. Litigation costs arise when cases go to court, but the other party will cover these costs when we win your case. You just want your credit report fixed, but we can also help you collect fair compensation for the harm you suffered due to the credit reporting errors.
Schedule your no-cost, risk-free consultation by calling our office or completing our online contact form.