The credit bureau thinks I'm dead

My Equifax credit report says that I am deceased. Is there someone linked to my report? When filing a dispute there is nothing concrete on my report that is incorrect. I did not finish a dispute because all of my information is correct. I am at a standstill with this issue and would love advice. –Genna

Hi Genna –

Being mistakenly flagged as deceased on your credit report is a pretty distressing error to have to deal with, but a more common error than you might think.

In almost all cases, an erroneous death indicator originates with a real death. If you shared an account with someone (either as a joint holder or as an authorized user) and that person passed away, the account may have been flagged as belonging to someone who is now deceased. This is done to prevent potential fraud. Unfortunately, sometimes the tag is placed on the wrong account holder (or on both).

Being flagged as deceased on one account triggers the notification to potential lenders (again, to prevent fraud). If you’re flagged on a single creditor account, you’ll need to contact the creditor and have them update their reporting. They may require certain documentation to prove that you are in fact alive. If your entire credit file is tagged, however, the problem may have originated with documentation provided by the deceased’s estate or with the Social Security Administration. If that’s the case, you may need to provide a letter from Social Security in order to fix the problem.

The whole process is admittedly a bit of a hassle. Thankfully though, it’s just a clerical error and not a bad omen. Good luck!


I have three credit cards and I want to consolidate my debt. I'm thinking of doing debt settlement. Or should I do a debt consolidation? What is the difference and what will do less damage to my credit score? –Carla

Hi Carla –

I’ve written about consolidation and debt settlement before, so for more detail check out the following articles:

In your case, a debt consolidation would involve opening a new account (either a new credit card or a consolidation loan) and transferring your three credit card debts to this new account. It’s impossible to say what the exact impact on your credit score would be, and even whether the change would be positive or negative.

Part of your credit score is based on the age of your accounts, so it seems likely that your score would drop as the older accounts were closed and replaced by a brand new account. Long-term, however, the damage would probably be minimal, especially if you successfully managed and repaid your new account.

In a debt settlement, all three accounts would go unpaid until they reached the point where the company holding those debts (likely a collection agency by that point) was willing to accept less than the full debt amount as payment. Your credit score would be essentially ruined. The missed payments and settled accounts would negatively impact your score for years after the fact.

There may be circumstances where debt settlement works for you, but if you’re concerned about your credit and your ability to make major future purchases, consolidation may be a better option.

If you’re struggling to make the minimum payment on your credit accounts, consider speaking with a credit counselor. There may be an alternative solution that works better for your unique situation. Good luck!


I was laid off for over four years, during which time I was turned down for unemployment, had absolutely zero income aside from food stamps, and was entirely unable to make any payments on my student loan. I have been working now for over a year. I completely paid off my student loan a few months ago. My credit score is still low, and since then I read closing out a loan can actually be bad. I have absolutely no outstanding loans or debt at this point. I also have no credit cards. Someday I would like to buy a house. What is the best way to build a good credit rating in the meantime, so someday I can qualify for a lower-interest loan to buy a house? –Howard

Hi Howard –

Congratulations on turning things around and paying off your student loans. You’re definitely moving in the right direction.

The best way to build your credit history is by using credit wisely. Start by opening a credit card. I don’t know exactly what your credit rating looks like at the moment, but if your previous hardships make it difficult to get a card, trying applying for a secured credit card. After you’ve used your card responsibly for a year or so, your financial institution will usually convert the account into a regular credit card.

Use your card often and pay off your balances before they incur interest charges. If you find an offer for another card with attractive terms, consider opening a second account. If you find it’s time to buy a new car, start hunting for a loan. Simply use credit and pay it back as agreed upon. It takes time to build a history of positive credit usage. Just stay responsible and you’ll eventually have the credit score you deserve. Good luck!

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.