Funeral Home Bill: Phone Scam Overview
Coping with the loss of a good friend or family member can be extremely difficult. Sadly, scam artists aren't above exploiting people that have just lost a loved one.
There are a number of ways that scammers target surviving friends and family members. We've previously discussed the secret life insurance policy phone scam, which targets elderly widows and widowers as well as family members. In another twisted scam that targets the grieving, callers will pretend funeral home employees seeking payment for their services.
How Does the Funeral Home Bill Phone Scam Work?
The scammer gets the names and contact information of the immediate family of recently deceased people. They can get this information from local obituaries or public death records.
They call their victims and initially pretend to be very sympathetic. However, they quickly state that they're from the funeral home and claim you have some unpaid bills. The caller will pretend to be understanding about the late bill, but will also be insistent that the bill be paid on immediately. They may warn their victims that interest will accumulate every day if the bill isn't paid. They may call back later and threaten to report the recipient to credit agencies.
The caller will ask the victim to send a wire payment, prepaid debit card, or other transaction that will be difficult to trace.
How Do You Avoid the Scam?
Funeral home bill scams are easy to spot if you know what to look for. Here are some tips to avoid falling for them.
Contact the funeral home directly.
If you arranged a funeral, you should contact the organizer of the funeral home. Ask to speak with the employee that you coordinated the ceremony with. They can help you find out if you actually owe a balance and discuss ways to pay off any debts.
Never use suspicious payment options.
Most funeral homes are local, small businesses. They usually accept payment via check, money order, or cash. They won't ask you to make a payment through Western Union, prepaid debit cards, or other wire transfer services.
Ask for the name of the funeral home.
The scammer may have done their research and found the names of people with recently deceased relatives, but they probably didn't take the time to find out what funeral home they used. If they can't tell you what funeral home they are working with, then they are probably an impostor.
How to Report the Scam
Funeral home billing scams are very sinister, so they should be promptly reported to the relevant authorities. The people behind this scam may be local, which would explain how they are able to identify relatives of deceased people so easily. You should file a report with your local police. They should also be reported to the FTC as well.
Unfortunately, it can be tricky for the authorities to trace these callers, because they often use spoofed phone numbers to cover their tracks. You can use a phone number tracer app to search for suspicious behavior related to the numbers you receive calls from. You can also report your experiences with strange and fraudulent calls in our online phone book listings.