BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When someone in the U.S. is declared dead, government agencies work quickly.

Agencies, banks, and businesses move the declared dead around in their files, to prevent hackers from stealing the deceased’s finances primarily.

Databases including the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File lock down your Social Security number, name, birth and death dates and final Zip code.

But, if this “declared death” happens to be a mistake, what do you do?

  1. Find the source of the mistake. Look for a county clerk’s office, health insurance company or a family member as a possible source. Find out whether or not a death certificate has been issued. If it has, you’ll need to give documentation and have the certificate amended. Gather all your financial records, tax returns, and birth certificate and social security card during this first stage, according to AOL.com.
  2. Inform Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion of the error. “Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days unless they consider your dispute frivolous,” the Federal Trade Commission Says.
  3. Follow up with who claimed you were dead, such as your bank. The Motley Fool recommended being clear about exactly what you want them to do- whether you are requesting they delete a false item in your credit report, or update any information that may have caused the misinformation.
  4. Request lost benefits or take legal action. If you didn’t receive health benefits, Social Security benefits due to this error. Legal action can be taken against companies that won’t provide you with back pay. Motley Fool recommends attaching a letter to your credit file explaining this error for future reference.
  5. Some precautionary steps to take could include, being extra diligent when filling out medical discharge paperwork. A woman was falsely reported dead for years, after a mistake on one of those forms led to her being ‘declared dead’. This impaired her ability to obtain credit.
  6. Another step includes getting credit reports regularly. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report each year from the three major bureaus. If you cycle through them every four months, you could catch a problem with your records before it affects you.

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