It’s Hard to Believe, but Scamming the Bereaved Happens all the Time
After the death of a loved one, you expect to feel a range of emotions such as sadness and denial. What you may not anticipate is being preyed upon by bereavement scams from con artists and fraudsters.
Sadly, during a time that should be dedicated to healing, many families are left dealing with confusing and often convincing forms of deceit instead. When a person passes away, con artists use this knowledge to extract information or money from those the deceased left behind. Potential targets typically emerge from obituaries, and from there, finding related phone numbers and mailing addresses online isn’t hard. Yes, scamming the bereaved does happen but by knowing what to look for, you can protect yourself and avoid being swindled.
Scams on the grieving come in many forms. Here are some of the most common ones:
“Unpaid services”: In this rip-off, scam artists phone the bereaved individual, claiming that the decedent scheduled services for tree trimming, home renovations or automotive repairs. The caller claims that the decedent scheduled the service prior to his or her death, and will request payment because the service appointment was missed. The Better Business Bureau reports that some scammers even present a bogus signed contract in hopes of seizing a payment right away.
“Delinquent life insurance premiums”: During this con, a fake life insurance agent calls the bereaved claiming that the decedent was behind on his or her insurance premiums. They then demand that a certain amount of money be paid in order to release the life insurance funds.
“Overdue taxes”: One of the most evil schemes targeting bereaved individuals is the claim that the decedent owes overdue taxes. Typically, the scammer calls the bereaved and identifies themselves as an IRS agent. They then demand payment for the supposed back taxes and may even threaten to have the bereaved individual arrested if payment isn’t made.
“You’re entitled to money": In this swindle, a 'lawyer' tells the bereaved that they were left an inheritance and must pay a fee to process it. Maybe there is a secret inheritance, but more than likely it’s a cruel scam.
If any of these scams happen to you, never pay any money and never divulge personal information about yourself or the deceased. Ask the caller for their name and full contact information. If it’s a con artist, he or she will quickly make up a reason to get off the phone.
Some smart ways to protect your deceased loved one’s identity and property include:
If you choose to publish an obituary, keep the biographical info (age, birthdate, maiden name) to a minimum. That information can be easily used to help a thief open new accounts or even access old ones that have yet to be closed.
Inform the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) of the decedent’s death by phone and mail, and include a copy of the death certificate.
Notify Social Security, the DMV, financial institutions and insurance companies of the death.
If you are contacted by a collection agency or someone claiming a debt against the estate, forward the information to the personal representative. Do not pay the supposed debt from your own funds or provide any of your personal information.
Be vigilant in securing the decedent’s home and valuable property. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.
Shred financial, legal, and other important documents when you’re cleaning out your loved one’s home. It’s important to keep in mind that the personal information they may contain is like a goldmine to would-be identity thieves.
Handle the decedent’s debts and liabilities in a timely manner. Close his or her credit card, bank, and utility accounts as soon as possible.
Proper end of life planning can help your family avoid the pain and embarrassment of falling victim to a bereavement scam. Reach out to our compassionate professionals today to find out more about our extensive end of life services and to learn how we can help you avoid bereavement scams.
About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral home and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. For more information, please call us at 215-549-4700 or visit our website.