How imposters are trying to exploit your grief and wallet in a new funeral scam

How imposters are trying to exploit your grief and wallet in a new funeral scam

How to spot scammers pretending to be from funeral homes

by Irene Park

Just when you thought you’d seen the worst of humanity, scammers have managed to reach a new low. You thought the Facebook scam about how scammers are commandeering people’s Facebook profiles with fake bereavement posts was terrible? It gets worse.

crying woman hugging

 

How the new bereavement scam works

While the Facebook post scam ran with fake bereavement posts to glean information about supportive friends, families, and even strangers, this new scam targets actual surviving family members to those who are recently deceased. The scammers reach out to families pretending to be from funeral homes and demand more payment or threaten the cancellation of the funeral.
It is easy to see how distraught loved ones might fall for such scams as they are already under immense stress from losing a loved one. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted those in the funeral industry, below are some key steps you can take to prevent you or anyone you care about from falling for this horrendous scam.

 

1) Pause before taking action

As with most scams, these charlatans are banking on the fact that any urgency they present you with will prevent you from thinking first. They are hoping that catching you in a vulnerable state and giving you an ultimatum will result in action taken before the victim or their family can think it through.
This scam is especially insidious because who would think of preying on family members of someone who is recently deceased? Forewarned is forearmed. So hopefully, knowing this scam has been committed will give you pause if you should run into such a situation.

Man in suit calling while on laptop

 

2) Directly contact the funeral home

Anyone can change the name of their outgoing number (the phone number you are getting a call from), so it may even say in the caller ID that it is from the funeral home you have employed.
If you are uncertain, tell them you will call them right back and hang up the phone. Find the number on the estimate or invoice you received directly from the funeral home and call to verify what is going on. The funeral home’s contact information can be found on the ‘General Price List’ that the funeral provided.

 

3) Type of payment red flag

Scammers don’t make the urgent payment needed easy to give. They have a tendency to request odd things like a wire transfer, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or even the check payback (where they send you a check claiming there was a clerical or mechanical error with their bank, have you deposit the check then have you send it back to them).
This is all to stop the money from being traced back to them or prevent you from recovering your money. The funeral home should have gone over the types of payment accepted when the ‘General Price List’ was provided. If there is a strong deviation from the most common forms of payment, hang up.

hand holding bitcoin

 

MORE: HOW TO STOP PHONE NUMBER SPOOFING AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMMERS

 

4) No surprises with funerals

While life is full of surprises, funeral homes should not be. They are regulated by the FTC to provide explicit pricing and information to consumers. A full explanation of the FTC’s oversight in this arena can be found under the ‘Funeral Rule.’
As mentioned in #2 of this list, each funeral provider is required to provide a ‘General Price List,’ which should disclose fees for any services involved in the funeral as well as pricing for most aspects of the funeral. If a scammer calls claiming new fees for services or items, remember that all those factors would have been provided to you with the ‘General Price List’ and agreed upon when hiring the funeral home.
grieving family laying flowers on wooden casket

 

MORE: HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE VENMO, ZELLE AND CASH APP SCAM THAT CAN WIPE OUT YOUR SAVINGS IN SECONDS

 

5) Report scammer to the FTC

While it may seem worthwhile to give the scammer a tongue-lashing, it is not worth your time, energy, and further violation of privacy. You do not know what information these scammers are gathering during the conversation and it is best to hang up as soon as possible and report it to the FTC, here.

 

6) Use an identity theft protection service

Consider using an identity theft protection service to shield yourself from potential scams, especially those related to funeral fraud. This is more for you than the deceased’s personal and financial information.

Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information like your Social Security Number (SSN), phone number, and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account.  They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals.

My top recommendation is Identity Guard. One of the best parts of using Identity Guard is that they might include identity theft insurance of up to 1 million dollars to cover losses and legal fees and a white glove fraud resolution team where a US-based case manager helps you recover any losses.

CyberGuy’s Exclusive Offer: Get the Identity Guard Ultra protection to protect your identity and credit through tax season and beyond for as little as $9.99/mo (lowest offered anywhere) for the first year. 

See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

Best identity theft protection services 2024

 

MORE: THIS FACEBOOK MESSENGER PHISHING SCAM IS STEALING MILLIONS OF PASSWORDS

 

Navigating the aftermath: protecting your loved one’s legacy

Consider these essential precautions to safeguard your family’s privacy and financial well-being from scammers after a loved one has passed away.

Craft obituaries mindfully: When writing an obituary, omit sensitive details that could be exploited for identity theft. Avoid including the deceased’s date and place of birth, middle name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, and home address. Additionally, refrain from mentioning the date and time of the funeral to prevent potential burglaries during the service.

Promptly report to Social Security: If a loved one has passed away, immediately notify the Social Security Administration by calling 800-772-1213. This step ensures that their benefits are appropriately handled.

Inform the IRS: Send a copy of the death certificate to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This allows officials to flag the deceased’s tax account, preventing any fraudulent activity.

Notify financial institutions: Reach out to banks and other financial institutions where the late loved one had accounts. If you decide to close these accounts, request that they be marked as “Closed: Account holder is deceased.”

Alert credit bureaus: Contact the major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to have them place a death notice in the deceased’s credit file. This step helps prevent unauthorized credit applications.

Monitor credit reports: Obtain a copy of the deceased’s credit report shortly after their passing and again a few months later. Regular checks can help detect any fraudulent activity.

Dealing with debts: Don’t let debt collectors intimidate you into paying financial obligations for a late spouse, parent, or sibling. Generally, the estate is responsible for debts, not the survivors. However, there are exceptions for cosigned loans and jointly held financial accounts. For specific guidance, consult the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Exercise caution with contacts: Be cautious if you receive communication from “long-lost” relatives or friends of the deceased, especially on social media. Verify their identity by asking family and old friends if they recognize the person.

 

Kurt’s key takeaways

Scammers have a knack for finding new ways to prey on the vulnerable. While fending off scammers is the last thing on one’s mind while grieving the loss of a loved one, it is important to stay informed and empowered so that your time and energy are spent on what really matters: remembering our lost loved ones.
What do you think should be done to stop these heartless scammers from exploiting people’s grief? Let us know in the comments below.
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