Of all the errors you may have to correct over the course of your lifetime, proving that you are, in fact, alive could actually be one of the most challenging. Not only are you faced with a frustrating logistical process, but also the toll such an experience can take on your mental and emotional well-being.
How Often Are People Mistakenly Declared Dead?
While the chances of a mistaken death declaration are slim, it is actually more common than you might think. The Social Security Administration mistakenly declares approximately 14,000 people dead each year, at an average of 38 mistaken declarations of death per day.
Why Are People Mistakenly Declared Dead?
The origin of a mistaken death declaration could come from a number of sources, be it the Social Security Administration, a credit bureau, a creditor, a bank, or some other business or government entity. But regardless of the source, the reason can almost invariably be traced back to a human typing error or some glitch in a computer program or system.
What Are The Consequences of Being Declared Dead by Mistake?
If you are mistakenly declared dead, you may:
- Find it impossible to secure new lines of credit.
- Lose government benefits.
- Have checks and payments bounce.
- Have difficulty correcting the error.
Steps Necessary to Correct a Mistaken Declaration of Death
To prove that you are, in fact, alive:
- Gather documents that may be necessary to prove your identity, including your birth certificate, Social Security card, photo ID, and recent tax returns, bank statements and utility bills.
- Determine the origin of the mistaken death declaration. Start with whatever source alerted you to the mistake and go from there.
- Determine whether a death certificate has been issued. If so, contact the relevant county clerk’s or recorder’s office to request an amendment.
- Contact your local office of the Social Security Administration. Set up a meeting to prove your identity and request a notarized letter verifying as much, which you can use to dispute the mistake with other entities.
- Notify all three major credit bureaus of the mistake.
- Contact all other entities with which you have an association to be sure the mistaken death declaration has not impacted those accounts as well (i.e., your bank, insurance companies, utility companies, etc).
- Keep detailed records of this process, including copies of correspondence, dates of phone calls, and contact names and numbers.
- Don’t stop until you’re certain the matter has been resolved. This means following up with the entity that originally reported your death and keeping a close eye on your credit reports.
- Request the receipt of any government benefits you lost upon the mistaken death declaration. Hire legal counsel if you are unable to resolve this issue on your own.
Most importantly, do not lose patience or hope. As maddening as such a mistake can feel, and as lengthy as the resolution process may be, remind yourself daily that it can and will be resolved.