Social Security, credit bureaus falsely declare people dead

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 By

Human skeleton

A number of people keep getting falsely declared dead by credit bureaus and Social Security. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Stories keep popping up about people who have been falsely declared dead by credit bureaus or by the Social Security Administration. Usually, it is due to an error in reporting, but it can happen to anyone.

Reports get exaggerated

Every now and again, a story comes out about a person having been declared dead and finding out about it when they go to get a loan of some sort. For instance, it was recently reported that 18-year-old high school senior Corbin Russell of Nebraska, according to the Daily Mail, has been turned down for student loans because he is, according to the Social Security Administration and credit bureaus, dead.

Russell, who was applying for loans to attend community college, discovered something was wrong after being denied a car loan close to the time when he applied for student aid. He discovered that his Social Security number had been flagged, as a man in South Carolina had used his name and SSN to collect a death benefit.

The Social Security Administration says the issue has been resolved in the Social Security database, but the credit bureaus haven’t updated their information yet.

Unfortunately natural

Falsely declared dead people unfortunately experience the sensation of being Schroedinger’s Cat as they are both alive and dead in the same moment. Unfortunately, a good number of people are falsely declared dead every year.

A person is legally dead, as far as the federal government is concerned, when that person’s name is entered into the Social Security Death Master File, according to CNN, which receives roughly 2.8 million annual reports. The file records the name, birth date, Social Security number and last known address among other information.

Out of the 2.8 million reported annual deaths, roughly 38 per day and more than 14,000 per year, are entered falsely. The cause is usually inadvertent; often enough a typing error was made.

Embarrassing incidents

Victims often find out when they are trying to secure credit. For instance, Wrenella Pierre, according to USA Today, was declared dead by Chase bank in November 2010, which she found out while she and her husband were trying to refinance their home.

Arthur Livingston, according to AOL Real Estate, found out in late 2011 that Bank of America had declared him dead in 2009, which he discovered when trying to get a mortgage. How B of A continued to do Livingston’s banking for two years after declaring him dead is a mystery.

Importance of credit reports

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau per year. There is a small chance this could happen to anyone, and the best way to guard against it is to monitor one’s credit report. If you discover that you have been reported dead, contact the Social Security Administration and your county’s coroner’s office immediately to begin rectifying the problem, according to CNN.


Daily Mail


USA Today

AOL Real Estate:

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