Really, Credit Bureaus, I'm Not Dead

John wants to know how he can convince the world that he’s not dead. He writes:

I have been battling with a silly preconception the federal government has concerning my status as a deceased person, that causes them to routinely shut down credit cards that I am using, and stresses my ability to build credit. (All this despite being actively enlisted in the US Navy)…

I have managed to track this anomaly down to TranUnion, Equifax, and Experian having records of my death, and that these originated from Best Buy of all places, with whom I held an account with, and subsequently canceled. (Who knew the penalty was doom?) I do not know which exactly of the three I should contact, or all three, and more importantly I was wondering if you knew of the proper format, or a template I could fill out and mass/mail to these three companies, before the damage to my credit keeps me from getting a home?

Hi John,

You need to contact all three of them. You can do this online for free by going through There’s links at each of the bureaus for disputing items on your credit report. Follow them and the instructions and let them know that reports of your death are greatly exaggerated.


Edit Your Comment

  1. snazz says:

    i really heart the picture!

  2. Greatly exaggerated?? How about COMPLETE LIE? I’d get ahold of whoever is in charge of Best Buy’s credit cards and go on a rampage over this, pitchforks and all.

  3. SkokieGuy says:

    Hmmmn, Best Buy provides false information that impacts your ability obtain credit? From: []

    ” According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) both the consumer reporting agency (the institution responsible for evaluating your credit history and issuing you a credit score) and the business that gave the consumer reporting agency incorrect information about you are responsible for correcting inaccurate information. But it is your job to contact both of those agencies and make sure they follow through.”

    Perhaps a nice registered letter to Best Buy demanding THEY correct the false info. Once notifed, and nothing done (a certainty, hey it IS Best Buy), then you have a basis for legal action.

  4. wattznext says:

    Misconception, not preconception.

    Shopping at Best Buy…just slightly better than death!

    • wattznext says:

      @wattznext: OK, after looking, preconception is technically correct, but misconception is MORE correct. Though i probably shouldn’t care at all…

  5. Mollyg says:

    You may also want to look into taking legal action against Best Buy for reporting false information.

    • tylerk4 says:


      “[A] private right of action against a furnisher of credit information exists only if the disputatious consumer notifies the CRAs in the first instance. The CRAs then have an obligation to investigate whether the claim is frivolous or irrelevant. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(3). Once a claim is deemed viable, the CRAs must contact the furnisher of the credit information which affords an opportunity to investigate and rectify erroneous reports. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b). The furnisher’s duty to investigate, however, does not arise unless it receives notice of the dispute from the CRAs directly. Bypassing the filter and contacting the furnisher of credit information directly does not actuate the furnisher’s obligation to investigate nor does it give rise to a private right of action. [Citation.]” (Roybal v. Equifax, (E.D. Cal. 2005) 405 F.Supp.2d 1177 at pp. 1179-1180.)

      • scoosdad says:

        @tylerk4: To attempt a translation:

        Before John can consider taking legal action against Best Buy:

        1. John must contact the three credit bureaus first (CRA’s) and tell them there’s a mistake.

        2. CRA’s must next contact Best Buy and say, “is he really dead as you’ve said?”

        3. Best Buy says to them, “yup, he’s really dead!”.

        4. John can now initiate legal action against Best Buy.

        But if John goes directly to Best Buy and does not talk to the credit agencies, he may not have legal standing to sue them, according to the citation above. And Best Buy is under no legal obligation to investigate John’s beef with them unless they get notified by the credit agencies.

        Is that correct? Wow, what an f’d up legal system.

        • tylerk4 says:


          You’re dead on. :)

        • schiff says:

          @scoosdad: Yeah, try going through identity theft proceedings. They had me half convinced I was pretending to be myself. After spending 3 days on the phone trying to restore my credit to its pre-theft state I’m left with a lock on my file which requires written verification, which is snail mailed, for any lines of credit.

  6. winstonthorne says:

    “Reports of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated”-Captain Picard, paraphrasing Mark Twain

  7. BrianDaBrain says:

    Sue Best Buy! Slap ’em in the face, then you can pay cash for your house! It is good to know that you are not dead, even if Best Buy might think otherwise.

    Great picture, by the way.

  8. nicemarmot617 says:

    Yeah, if Best Buy really reported to the credit agencies that you’re dead, I’d be looking into a lawyer. The only thing companies care about is their bottom line i.e. profits. They will continue doing crap like this to people until somebody punishes them where the live – in the wallet.

  9. frari489 says:

    hehe, could be worse, it reminds me of the book catch-22

    “[Doc Daneeka] found himself ostracized in the squadron by men who cursed his memory foully for having supplied Colonel Cathcart with provocation to raise the number of combat missions. Records attesting to his death were pullulating like insect eggs and verifying each other beyond all contention. He drew no pay or PX rations and depended on the charity of Sergeant Towser and Milo, who both knew he was dead. Colonel Cathcart refused to see him, and Colonel Korn sent word through Major Danby that we would have Doc Daneeka cremated on the spot if he ever showed up at Group Headquarters.”

  10. IAmMarchHare says:

    Hmmm, another reason to not shop at Best Buy, I see. I guess this is a new twist on “shop til you drop”. ;->

  11. SkittleKicks says:

    I’d also make sure he’s not considered deceased in DEERS.

  12. schiff says:

    Good luck convincing them your not dead. Assuming your still living at your old address it might not be that difficult, but if you’ve moved they will likely mail verification paper work to your old address.

  13. Jabberkaty says:

    Maybe he made the mistake of saying “I’d rather be dead than shop at Best Buy.”

    And they decided to see if he really meant that.


  14. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    OK, wait a minute. How is it that Best Buy (or any creditor) has the power to declare someone dead and get that declaration enforced unilaterally on the “dead” person’s entire “estate”?

    • midwestkel says:

      @speedwell: Thats what I want to know. That is crazy, I thought they had to check with the government and get like a death certificate or something to prove he is dead, not some CSR that clicks a deceased button and then thats it hes been verified dead.

      • Dyscord says:

        @midwestkel: I believe all they would have to do is say “This person had an account with us and he is deceased” and it snowballs from there.

        The way it usually works is say a woman becomes a widow. She calls her husbands credit card company and informs them that he’s deceased. Usually they require some form of verification, but I guess that’s not mandatory. They then inform the credit bureaus and the rest is history.

        • SayAhh says:

          @Dyscord: Actually, all a person has to is refuse a letter, any letter, from the post office, and writing a bad excuse (i.e., a lie) on the envelope.

          To elaborate: sometimes people get bills or unwanted advertising in the mail. It’s usually Standard (or Bulk) Rate mail, but sometimes it’s First-Class Mail and it actually goes back to the sender when declined. People think they are clever by writing “DECEASED” on the envelope (instead of “REFUSED”) so that they’ll be taken off the advertiser’s list.

          Little did they know that by doing so, the advertisers who frequently update their lists have now dissipated their customer’s new “DECEASED” status to EVERY TELEMARKETER they share their lists with, including: BANKS, CREDIT CARD AGENCIES, DMV and so on.

          The lesson here: register to be put on a “do not mail” list, and do not write “DECEASED,” “MOVED” or “DOES NOT LIVE HERE” if it’s not true.

  15. Ein2015 says:

    Excellent picture, guys. :)

    I’m surprised the other Consumerist articles weren’t linked to… but here it is: []

  16. cottercutie says:

    HSBC is the company that manages Best Buy’s credit cards/financing. Very few retailers actually manage their own cards anymore (Target being one of the few which does via Target National Bank)

  17. johnnya2 says:

    Retailers rarely are the culprit in this matter.They make their money selling products. Banks make the money providing credit. The Best Buy, GAP, etc generally use a bank to provide credit with their name on it. I know the fine print in the credit agreement seems rather mundane, but reading through it will explain many of those rights and responsibilities. Credit is a contract, and it is good to know who you would even have standing to sue. Best Buy does not report anything, HSBC Bank does. You can no make paymetns at a Best Buy store for this reason as well.

  18. neuman1812 says:

    its probably me. Blame me. Whenever I get a callfrom a credit company looking to collect or offer something to someone else. I tell them that person is dead. so you can blame me.

  19. Red Star says:

    What a scary reality we are in where all it takes is a company telling the system you are dead and thats considered truth. My husband was also marked as deceased and we are still trying to correct the situation. We have contacted Transunion, Experian and Equifax about this. Of course we will supposedly see results within 30 days. We have contacted Stars (military credit card company) of their error and we were told it would be taken care of within 24hours. Well that was a lie. It has been a week and Stars still don’t know why they can’t correct the issue on their end. To make matters worse. Stars had sent me a letter expressing their condolences of my husbands death. This should be illegal. It’s totally unfair to hold one’s credit score like this when it is what’s used to determine eligibility for credit. It’s a ridiculous system.