Thinking and talking about death is one of life’s most emotional times but is inevitable for every person. Whether you are talking about funeral plans after an unexpected death, or planning for your own eternal future, there is a lot to consider and many expenses to incur. Like any aspect of life where there is money to be made, fraudsters take advantage of vulnerable people for their own gain.
The death of a loved one is painful enough. Losing money or becoming a victim of fraud in the process can make the burden even heavier. Understanding the types of funeral and cremation fraud that exist will go a long way toward ensuring that you and other family members are safe.
Some common scams that center on funerals and cremation include:
Prepaid funeral scams. This type of fraud takes place when individuals pay ahead for their own funeral arrangements and then the company takes off with the money and never foots the funeral bills. In January, six men in Missouri were sent to federal prison after being caught for a $450 million Ponzi funeral planning scheme that had 97,000 victims in several states. While prepaying for a funeral is not a crime in and of itself, and in many cases can relieve the financial burden on the family, scammers have made it a perilous endeavor that especially targets the elderly. As a result, the FBI and the AARP suggest that no one ever prepay for a funeral but instead estimate the costs and set the money aside.
Overpriced services. Many loved ones are surprised to see the final bill for funeral expenses that can add up to the thousands. The AARP reports that the average funeral today costs $8,000. Unfortunately, many funeral homes and cremation services take advantage of the disoriented state of their customers to sell them things for prices that are unreasonable. Federal law requires funeral directors to have a set price list and show that to you, the consumer. Be sure to ask for it if it is not expressly given to you upfront. Before signing anything, have the funeral home director or cremation specialist carefully explain everything on the bill. You should also try to find a rational family member or friend who was not as close to the deceased to help you sort through the expenses.
Cremation scams. Though less commonly reported than funeral scams, cremation fraud does exist. This can happen through prepaid services to companies that do not actually exist, or will dispute that the deceased even made the payments, or can center on reckless crematories that do not properly handle ashes. A crematory director should always be able to present a license and give you a tour of at least part of the facility prior to the cremation process. The last thing you want is to find out later on that the ashes you distributed at the deceased favorite place belonged to someone else. Ask about the identification and tagging system that the crematory uses before entrusting a loved one to its care. Let the crematory know that you expect quality care of your loved one and will be paying attention.
Just like any convincing scam, funeral and cremation fraud tugs at the heartstrings of victims. You will likely not be in the best state of mind when you need to make arrangements for a person who passed away, so consider the planning in advance. By knowing what you will want in the event of the death of a loved one, you can reduce your risk for being a victim of scams.
Stay skeptical and be safe. A professional private investigator can verify the facts and get clear evidence, so you can be sure the people you’re dealing with are legitimate and reputable. Trained investigators can identify red flags and verify any person or entity. Contact us today.
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