‘The lowest of the low’: This scam targets people planning funeral arrangements

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Scammers appear to be targeting mourners nationwide with phone calls impersonating funeral-home staff, according to local media reports and consumer advisories.

Grieving people in Georgia and California have told local media outlets in recent months that they were contacted by scammers who posed as funeral-home workers and requested payment relating to arrangements for the death of a loved one. Business leaders have also warned consumers of the mounting trend in West Virginia and Louisiana. 

In the Georgia case, a woman sent a fake funeral-home worker $1,200 through Zelle the day before her father’s funeral was scheduled to take place before realizing her mistake, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. Meanwhile, CBS 8 in California reported on a different woman who was targeted in the days after her husband’s death, but didn’t pay the $49.90 the caller said she owed for “an insurance thing.” 

From the archives (Nov. 2022): Do you want your funeral to be a Porsche or a Hyundai? Funeral homes may have to post prices online for the first time.

“To take advantage of a family that is grieving the death of a loved one is deplorable — the lowest of the low,” Jessica Koth, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association, told MarketWatch in an email. The organization has encouraged its members to warn families they’ve served about this scam and remind them of their funeral home’s billing practices, Koth added.

The NFDA said in an alert last month that scammers were using recently published obituaries to pose as funeral-home staff members and call families claiming they owed some amount of money for a service. In an update to that alert, the organization added that scammers were also calling families to say they owed an immediate deposit to their pre-need account — an account used as a means of arranging a funeral ahead of one’s death — or “the funeral home cannot guarantee that the service will take place.”

From the archives (Dec. 2022): Opinion: Funeral homes should post prices online — ‘Just because we’re bereaved doesn’t make us saps’

Most recently, Forest Park Funeral Home and Cemeteries said in a Facebook post Friday that its Shreveport, La., business had heard from multiple funeral directors who’d said scammers were posing as employees and calling families using cremation, funeral and cemetery services. One of its own customers had even been contacted multiple times.

“Fortunately, they did NOT provide any information and called us immediately,” the funeral home wrote in the post, advising consumers to be wary of callers claiming to be funeral-home employees who need personal or financial information.

Read more: ‘A funeral isn’t just a day in the life — it’s a life in a day.’ Women in the funeral industry are finding their calling.

“Refuse payment and NEVER disclose credit-card numbers, banking information, social security numbers or a date of birth,” the funeral home said. “Tell the caller you will follow-up directly with the funeral home or cemetery and end the call. Feel free to end the call without explanation if it appears suspicious or to be a scam. If possible, take down the caller’s information (including name, title, phone number, and email address), and report this to police and to your funeral director or cemetery staff member.”

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