Did you know that there are thousands of people who are alive and well who the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists as deceased? You read that right. The SSA’s Death Master File includes thousands of people that are still very much alive. Many of these people do not find this out until their health insurance is cut off, credit cards closed and bank accounts frozen. So, how does this happen? How are there so many living and breathing people who the SSA has mistakenly given up for dead and what do they have to do to get off the Death Master File?
How Are Thousands of People Mistakenly Ending Up in the SSA’s Death Master File?
Per the Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General, from 2007 to 2010, over 36,000 people were mistakenly listed as dead. Since 2010, the SSA reports that the number has dropped, with less than 7,400 people being accidentally added to the agency’s Death Master File annually. A spokesperson for the SSA said that in the past, deaths were reported to the SSA by family members and funeral directors. The spokesperson said that since the agency switched over to electronic death registration systems, which enable states to upload death reports directly to the SSA.
One man who was mistakenly listed as dead said that his death was reported as happening the same day that his wife actually died. Therefore, this has led to speculation that some accidental death reports are the result of sharing a credit card or bank account with someone who dies, which boils down to a data entry error.
How Do the Living Get Their Name Removed from the SSA’s Death Master File?
For those who are alive but find out that the SSA considers them to be dead, the first thing to do is go to a local SSA office right away to report the error. When you go to the SSA office, bring one or more valid pieces of identification, like a passport, driver’s license, student or employee ID card or health insurance card, with you.
After the mistaken death report has been corrected, you should receive an “erroneous death case – third party contact” letter. This is a notice you can provide to your bank, credit card providers and other institutions to prove that your death report was false. If an institution will not recognize you as alive, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for assistance.
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