Article by Tom Blandford - 11th April 2018

Why Does My Credit File Say I'm Dead?

For many people, it comes as a shock when they are informed that they are, regrettably, dead. In fact, it can be a downright inconvenience when you’re trying to apply for credit, but end up getting turned down because you’ve been accidentally listed on the Death Register.

If that scenario sounds unlikely, that’s because it is, but that isn’t to say it never happens. On very rare occasions, we have come across customers struggling to obtain credit for this exact reason. In the US it even has its own word: if you can't get credit because the details (and accuracy) surrounding your death have been exaggerated (greatly, or otherwise) you become known as a Credit Zombie.

What is the Death Register?

The Disclosure of Death Registration Information scheme (DDRI) was launched in 2008 and allows the Registrars General for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to report details of new deaths. This information is typically used by Police in the prevention of crime, but is also reported to the Credit Reference Agencies, so prospective lenders can use it to check the status of their applicants.

Disclosure of Death registration Information is legislated by the Police and Justice Act 2006 and the Local Electoral Administration and Registration Services (Scotland) Act 2006. Organisations that share the weekly update of Death Registration must show that they only use this information in the prevention, investigation, or prosecution of criminal offences, and adhere to strict security standards to hold the data.

Why do lenders use the Death Register?

Criminals sometimes attempt to use the details of deceased persons when committing identity fraud, as this practice was historically much harder to detect without the Death Register to refer to. As the best way to check for fraudulent credit accounts being opened in your name is by checking your Credit Report, fraudsters would often use the deceased as they are less likely to notice.

Use of the Death Register deters this, and can be combined with data from other sources to identify fraudulent attempts on your credit file.

Organisations such as Cifas and National Hunter also give lenders valuable information required to detect fraudulent applications and protect consumers from identity theft. The presence of a fraud warning or a death record will have a similar effect on an application – in both cases, the lender would look more closely at the application to ensure they are truly dealing the individual named on the application.

With automated systems, as are common when applying for store finance, you are more likely to have your application declined immediately as a result of the marker as it requires manual approval.

Could I be on the Death Register?

The vast majority people can be completely confident that their Credit Report will be clear of any Death Registration information.

As with most things however, mistakes do sometimes happen, and so it makes sense to check for yourself to make sure everything is correct. The Death Register is just one of the many pieces of data on your checkmyfile Credit Report, and whilst you are much more likely to come across an error in another section, it’s worth a look.

How does this happen?

More often than not, an incorrect death registration happens as a result of a clerical error, rather than anything more sinister. There are safeguards in place to ensure that the data held on your Credit Report is as accurate as possible, but from time to time, errors can happen.

In May 2018, a glitch in a bank's online banking system caused a number of their customers to be accidentally declared dead, which lead to direct debits being cancelled and their services being terminated. This is because the bank automatically informed the customers' monthly payment commitments of the news as it meant they would no longer be receiving money from these customers. All it would take is for one of these services to report this information to Credit Reference Agencies and all of a sudden that person can no longer apply for credit. It really can be that simple.

How to remove a death registration from credit report

As with any incorrect data on your Credit Report, the best way to dispute it is by going to the source. In this case that source is not likely to be the DDRI, but any lenders or Credit Reference Agencies that have you listed as deceased. This information should be available to view on your Credit Report, so you can have the entry amended easily.

Death Registration Information is reported to your credit file by Crediva, which is available to view in the checkmyfile Multi-Agency Credit Report. If you haven’t already, you can try checkmyfile free for 30 days, then for just £14.99 a month afterwards.

So the next time somebody gives you a very unexpected reason for declining your application for credit, check your Credit Report before you start pinching yourself to check you are actually still alive. That person might just be wrong.

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