How Do I Convince a Credit Bureau That I'm Not Dead?

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By Gerri Detweiler

Although most of us who check our credit reports are doing it to make sure credit bureaus are correctly reporting our debts and payment records, one reader named Denise says she's having trouble convincing a credit bureau she's alive.

"Experian shows that I'm deceased because when I closed my Kohl's (KSS) charge card, the rep accidentally marked me 'deceased' instead of 'customer closed account.' After I got that straightened out, I sent a notarized letter with a copy of my birth certificate to Experian (EXPN) stating that I am alive and Kohl's made an error when I closed my account.This was months ago, and I am still marked deceased. What can or should I do?"

Staffers at got in touch with Experian, and staffers there said they've been trying to reach Denise. In the meantime, Kristine Snyder, public relations manager for Experian Consumer Information Services, says one of the important questions to answer is whether Denise found out she had an error on her credit report from a lender or from pulling her own credit report.

If a lender tells you there is a problem on your credit reports, you need get an updated personal copy of your report because that has instructions for filing a dispute -- including the right address to submit your dispute. You can get a copy for free every year.

What If the Problem Persists?

Snyder said consumers should allow 30 days for the dispute process to be completed, although she said they are typically completed more quickly. "Without knowing what the consumer actually did, it's hard to say what happened, but we handle disputes like this one quickly and effectively, so I definitely want to be sure we are able to assist this consumer," she said.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%In general, if fixing a mistake is taking longer than 30 days, it's smart to follow up with the credit bureau. Particularly if you are sending documents, as Denise did, it's a good idea to send it via certified mail (which requires a signature for delivery), with a return receipt. It's also helpful to log whom you spoke with and what was said, and to keep copies of all correspondence. Both you and the credit bureau have good reason to want to make sure the information in your file is correct; credit scores are only as good as the data behind them.

Denise could also ask Kohl's to submit corrected information. Again, it's important to keep good records and to use certified mail.

Another option, particularly if a mistake persists despite a consumer's best efforts to get it corrected, would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or consult a consumer law attorney for advice.

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