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Bereaved Beware: 3 Scams to Look Out For

Losing a loved one is difficult, and the last thing anyone needs is to be targeted by scammers. Con artists often take advantage of families during this vulnerable period.

Con Artists Targeting Grieving Families

The last thing anyone should have to think about after losing a loved one is being on guard against becoming a victim of a scam. It is hard to believe people would use such a moment in life to prey upon people but sadly, when families share personal information in an obituary, plan and attend a funeral, and begin to sort through bills and paperwork, con artists attempt to trip them up with savvy and aggressive tactics. 

Our experience in the funeral industry gives us a unique perspective on what to watch out for – and what to do if you think you or loved ones are especially vulnerable. Protect yourself by learning about these three common scams. 

Obituary Scam 

Obituaries often provide a lot of personal information, including names, the date, time, and place of the visitation, funeral, and reception, and sometimes, even the home address of the person who died. Thieves will jump at the chance to break into a house when they know its occupants are away for hours at a time. Prevent this crime of opportunity by omitting personal addresses from the obituary, and asking a neighbor to keep a watch on the house during the funeral service. 

'Debt Collector' Scam 

The phone rings and when you answer, the person on the other end identifies himself as an employee at a collection agency. He provides personal information about your recently deceased loved one and says you are responsible for outstanding debts incurred after your loved one purchased a product or service. Typically, when this happens those who are grieving haven’t had time to sort through financial affairs and can be caught off guard – and even frightened – by the assertiveness of the collector and the documents he claims to have. 

If you receive this or a similar call – and remember, predators like this are often pushy and don’t give you time to think – never make a payment or provide further information. Simply ask for their contact number so you can call back. They will usually hang up without giving you that information, but if they do provide a company name and phone number, check into the claim or involve a personal or professional contact to do so on your behalf. 

Grandchild Scam 

While this well-known hoax has been around for years, those grieving a loved one – especially kind-hearted elderly people – are at particular risk. Scammers call pretending to be a long-lost relative or a grandchild stating they are in some kind of trouble and need money sent to them immediately. These fear-inducing scammers often sound desperate and offer startling amounts of personal information about your loved one. They may have found this information in an obituary or on social media. 

Talk with the people in your life about the prevalence of all of these scams, the dangers of wiring or transferring money, and how to reach out for assistance if they receive calls or emails like this. 

At a time when grief overwhelms, it’s unfortunate you and your loved ones need to be aware of those looking to profit. There’s no need to be fearful or anxious, but you do want to be prepared and protect yourself. 

To learn more about planning for the future, visit our free online resource here. Or, take a look at our article about sneaky cremation fees to watch out for.

Resources

Here are a few resources to help you fight fraud, especially scams aimed at seniors.

National Council on Aging: Top 5 Financial Scams Targeting Older Adults

U.S. News and World Report: 10 Common Senior Scams 

AARP: Scams and Fraud

HelpGuide.org

ReportFraud.FTC.Gov