Whether you are prearranging and prepaying for your own funeral or arranging and paying for the funeral of a loved one, you have become a potential target, through no fault of your own, of perpetrators of funeral and cemetery scams.
What Are Funeral and Cemetery Scams?
Most funeral or cemetery scams attempt to either take your money by overcharging you for products and services you don’t need. Some try to steal your identity by tricking you into opening malware.
Either way, in the broadest sense, a funeral or cemetery scam is an attempt to take advantage of you in a state of weakness or vulnerability.
To protect yourself against this malicious behavior, learn the different ways these scams may appear, how to identify them, and how to avoid them.
Examples of Specific Funeral and Cemetery Scams
Funeral and cemetery scams take many forms. Fortunately, many of them are common and fairly easily recognizable, if you know what to look for.
Some dishonest funeral directors may insist that a casket is required even for a direct cremation. It is not.
Casket Gasket Scam
Here, a scammer claims you can buy a product capable of preserving or protecting your loved one’s remains, or your own. That assertion is simply false.
An example of such a fraudulent product is the so-called “Casket Gasket”, that claims to preserve the deceased’s body by preventing water from leaking into the casket.
A funeral home that perpetrates this scam may pay $20 to produce a gadget they sell for $700 that doesn’t even do what it claims to do. In some cases, these Casket Gaskets actually have the reverse effect, accelerating the decomposition of the deceased’s body.
An attempt to steal your identity, in this scam, you receive what appears to be an email invitation to a funeral of someone you ostensibly know or once knew.
The email includes a link for you to click to open an attachment for more details, but, when you click on that link, it downloads malware onto your system that can steal personal information like passwords and Social Security numbers.
Grieving Widow(er) Scam
For this scam, the perpetrator will contact a widow or widower he or she found by reading the obituaries, or attend the funeral of the departed spouse.
Obviously a total stranger to the widow or widower, the perpetrator will claim the grieving person’s dearly departed husband or wife owed them a debt that remains outstanding.
The perpetrator will, then, insist that the grieving widow or widower is responsible for settling that debt.
Misleading Funeral Packages
This scam is perpetrated by dishonest funeral home operators who offer enticing package deals to woo you from third-party funeral vendors who may actually give you a better deal.
The funeral home offers you a reduced price on the casket but winds up secretly charging you more in hidden fees like “director’s fees” and “service fees”.
Red Flags to Look Out For
- Casket scam – A director insisting a casket is necessary for all services including direct cremations since it is not. Also beware of funeral directors who attempt to upsell you, or guide you into higher-end, and therefore higher-cost, showroom casket models.
- Fake invitation Scam – A generic email subject line like “Passing of Your Friend” or simply “Funeral Invitation” that doesn’t include a person’s name.
- Misleading funeral home scam – This is a package deal containing thousands of dollars in director’s and/or service fees.
Tips For Protecting Your Information and Your Pocketbook
General ways to avoid funeral and cemetery fraud include:
- Staying informed. Take the initiative to shop around before choosing a funeral home and director. Bring someone you trust with you to help make the decision. Know that funeral homes are legally required to give detailed price lists in writing or over the phone if requested.
- Educating yourself. Learn all you can about caskets and what differentiates one from another before you purchase one for your loved one.
- Understanding fees. Some fees are basic fees for common professional funeral home services, while other fees are extra. Learn the difference.
- Reading all contracts and purchasing agreements carefully before signing. Make sure you understand and agree to everything you read, and if there’s anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification before you sign. Be sure before you sign as well that all the requirements you have for the services to be rendered are included in the written agreement.
- Making sure you’re absolutely clear, in particular, on the cancellation policy and refund terms to which you’re agreeing before you sign on the dotted line. If there are portability options available to you for transferring for services to a different funeral home, make sure those are written into the contract as well before you sign.
- Avoiding pressure tactics of any sort. Never sign a contract, make a purchase, or commit funds if you don’t feel comfortable.
In addition, if you are considering prepaying for your own funeral services, be sure you are fully informed of what you are paying for, and make sure your closest loved ones are aware of your explicit wishes.
Tips for Avoiding Common Funeral and Cemetery Scams
To avoid falling prey to a casket scam simply decline to work with any funeral director who insists a casket is necessary, even for services like a direct cremation.
To avoid a fake invitation, never open an email invitation for a funeral, let alone an attachment included with one, unless the name of a person familiar to you is in the subject line. Instead, just delete the email, or, better yet, report it as spam and send it to your spam folder.
To avoid being burned by a misleading funeral home scam, always request a printed breakdown of expenses detailing your exact charges for all services to be rendered. Keep in mind, as well, that state law governs embalming rules, not funeral home company policy, and no state legally requires embalming for direct cremations.
Summary and Resources
121 Financial Credit Union helps protect and preserve the identities and pocketbooks of all its members in Jacksonville, Florida, and the surrounding Northeast Florida area.