Scamming the Bereaved: It’s More Common Than You Think

By: VGFS
Thursday, December 27, 2018

For many of us, discussing death is off limits. As a result, a loved one’s finances and final wishes may only be revealed after his or her passing.

Sadly, there are con artists who focus on scamming the bereaved for this very reason. They also know that saying goodbye to a loved one leaves you distracted and vulnerable. While we hope you’re never targeted, knowing the common tactics used by bereavement scam artists could prevent you or a loved one from becoming a victim if—or when—a fraudster strikes:

Overdue Utilities/Bills

A “professional” informs you of the decedent’s debt either over the phone, online, mail, or in person. In person, they may show you an ID badge or realistic-looking bill. An email might link to a “secure” online payment form. Never give out personal or financial information, no matter how threatening or urgent the situation seems. If a utility bill is in question, contact the utility company yourself.

Unpaid Taxes

If you learn about your loved one’s tax debt out of the blue, be wary. The IRS communicates by mail on several occasions before employing other tactics. Hunt down previous tax returns or consult with a tax attorney. Checks should be mailed directly to the IRS and only made payable to the U.S. Treasury. Never pay a collection agency.

The Personal Loan

Funerals tend to bring long-lost family and friends together. Be suspicious of strangers or anyone who claims they are owed money. If you know the person, ask a trusted friend to help you verify their story. If you feel that you are being extorted, contact an attorney.

The Cadillac Funeral

While most funeral directors are in this business to provide you with the very best support and care, there are some who will exploit your sorrow. Beware of funeral fraud. If you’re being shown caskets and services above your price range, speak up. Request a full catalog with pricing and enter the funeral home with a set budget. Bring a companion for support and always work with a reputable funeral home.

Life Insurance Policy Lapse

An unexpected life insurance policy may seem like a Godsend. You may be informed that a policy exists, but you’ll need to pay the final installments to active the payout. The scammer may request payment by money wire, credit card, cash, or bank withdrawal, as well as a copy of the death certificate. Their goal is identity theft and/or to steal your money. If you think the claim could be legitimate, have an attorney or trusted family member explore it at a later time.

Surprise Inheritance/Unclaimed Funds

Be wary of surprise inheritances and unclaimed funds. The scammer may ask for personal information to verify your identity or bank account information where they can “deposit” the funds. Don’t fall for their narrative. Again, turn to a trusted friend or lawyer to help you determine the legitimacy of the funds and how to receive them without risking identity theft or a hit to your bank account.

Your Health Benefits Are at Risk

Scam artists know that losing your health benefits is scary. They may ask for a payment via credit card, money order, or cash to reactivate your benefits. Don’t fall for it. Contact your insurance company directly. Only use a number from an established insurer’s website, never the one that the caller used or provided.

Tips for avoiding scams on the bereaved:

●      Be guarded. Scammers may be friendly and helpful or confident and pushy. Never make a decision under pressure or share private information with a stranger.

●      Be high-maintenance. Con artists play a numbers game. When you hang up, ask questions, or refer them to your attorney, they’ll likely move along to an easier target.

●      Be vague. Obituary details can allow scammers to fake familiarity with your loved one. Avoid providing personal details, including maiden names, in your any death notices you place.

●      Get monitoring. One of the three credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, or Transunion can monitor you and your deceased loved one’s credit and identity for fraud. 

●      Do nothing. Let calls go to voicemail. Give yourself time and visit requests when you’re in a better mindset.

In a perfect world, no one would ever scam the bereaved. At Vaughn Green Funeral Services, we have you and your family’s best interests at heart. Should you need additional information on identity and funeral fraud or help in laying your loved one to rest, our compassionate funeral directors are always here for you.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

Leave a comment
Name*:
Email:
Comment*:
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.

Comments

Please wait

Previous Posts

Facing Mortality: Three Reasons Why Acceptance is the Best Option

Although loss and death affect everyone, it’s a topic we tend to avoid. It’s considered gloomy and even a bad omen by many. But in reality, there is a sense of freedom that comes with facing morta...

Planning a Celebration of Life? Check Out These Imaginative Ideas

Planning a celebration of life can be a healing way to remember a departed loved one. As COVID restrictions continue to relax, people are seeking creative ways to pay tribute to their beloved frie...

Six Essential Tips to Help You Choose Photos that Celebrate Your Loved One’s Life

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. That’s why the images you select for a loved one’s obituary, funeral program, or memorial service are just as important as the words...

FEMA Announces COVID-19 Funeral Assistance

FEMA will begin accepting applications for Funeral Assistance on Monday, April 12, 2021 through a dedicated call center. Please see the call line information below: 844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-758...

Upcoming Webinar: Managing Change & Grief - April 14

We hope you will join us! Recognizing that professional counseling can be an important part of the grieving and healing process, we have invited Leslie Holley, MA, LCPC, NCC, and certified counsel...

Life Changes Quickly. Is Your Will Putting You at Risk?

If you already have a will in place, congratulations! It’s a critical estate tool, yet only a small percentage of the population has completed this essential document. But if you think you can put...

The Senior Lifestyle: Five Tips to Help You Retain Your Independence and Your Safety

Aging comes with many important decisions, including where to live. According to a 2019 AARP survey, 75% of American seniors say they want to remain in their own homes, but that’s not always feas...

Vaughn Greene Funeral Services Celebrates 25 Years in the Baltimore Community

Firm’s Legacy of Service and Humanitarianism Remains its Hallmark Baltimore, Maryland – March 18, 2021 – Vaughn Greene Funeral Services is celebrating 25 years of distinguished care for grieving...

Keep Your Loved One’s Memory Alive with these Touching Funeral Keepsakes

Funeral favors and keepsakes are gaining popularity. Usually a small token given in remembrance of the departed, these items are available in an endless array of options and price points. They ar...

In Lieu of Flowers: Creative Ideas for Sympathy Gifts

It can be hard to find the right words to express condolences. Even if the bereaved is a close friend or family member, you may feel as though your remarks don’t convey the depth of your emotions. ...