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What To Do When You Turn Up Dead

Imagine you go to your ATM one day and find you are locked out of your account. You inquire at the bank and learn your bank account is closed. You have been reported dead. This happens more than you would think. About 500 alive people each month are recorded as dead -, enough that Social Security has a Frequently Asked Question about this on its website.

People learn they are dead when they go to pick up a prescription and learn they no longer have health insurance. Or they apply for credit and are told they are dead. Or they receive a letter from Social Security expressing condolences on their death. Sometimes their government benefits stop.

According to the Social Security Administration, 90 percent of these errors originate at the Social Security Administration. Social Security receives death notices from funeral homes, county clerks, the post office, family, health insurance companies, and states. If one of its workers inadvertently types in a wrong number, a living person can end up dead on paper. It is also possible that reporting sources have made a mistake.

Once this happens, your name goes on to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. In the past anyone who paid a fee could purchase this list, making your information readily available to identity thieves. In response, Congress passed legislation,  which went into effect November 2016, restricting access to the Death Master File for the three calendar years following an individual’s death to authorized users. Authorized users include banks, credit reporting agencies, and insurers.

While this helps reduce identify theft, it does not alleviate the headache of having died on paper. When this happens, you are locked out of your life. The information spreads quickly to banks, insurers, hospitals, pharmacies, and other important parts of your health and financial life. You are left with the job of proving you are still alive.

Start with Social Security. You will need to meet in person with a Social Security representative and show an ID or document that proves your identity.  Social Security will remove the death coding. To locate your closest Social Security office, visit ssa.gov/locatorThe SSA will provide a letter that you can give to banks, doctors or others to show that your death report was in error.  You can also locate the erroneous death certificate, have it amended through the issuing office, and send it to your banks, insurers, the credit bureaus, and other financial organizations.

If you are one of the unfortunate people who learns they have died, first I send you my condolences. Then I urge you to act quickly to rejoin the land of the living.

 

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.