Alert: Funeral Home Scam Targets Grieving Families

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Few things are worse than falling victim to a criminal during one of the most vulnerable times in your life: when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one.

Money expert Clark Howard is warning consumers about a dastardly scam that targets mourning families. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says if there were a “Scammers Hall of Shame,” this one would be in the Top 10 list for sure.

Planning a Funeral? Watch Out for This Scam

Clark cites an NBC News report about the growing scam, which involves criminals posing as funeral homes and asking for upfront payment toward a burial or cremation service.

The article tells the tale of a widowed mourner who was almost swindled out of $2,500 via Zelle and Apple Pay. 

“She — completely fishhook in mouth — tries to send the money and ends up not being able to,” Clark says. “It was flagged as suspicious, thank goodness. But then they said, ‘Since you’re not able to send it those two ways, let’s do PayPal.’ And her son, who was there with her as she’s grieving the loss of her husband after all those years, said, ‘Hang up the phone!’ and she did. And then later, it turns out that it was completely bogus.”

Here’s How the Funeral Home Scam Works

Criminals prey on the loved ones of the recently deceased by looking through online obituaries. Posing as funeral home employees, the crooks call those people and tell them that they owe a deposit on any end-of-life arrangements.

To make matters worse, the scammers seem legit because they’re able to mask their real phone number by “spoofing” the number of a local funeral home. 

“The phone’s caller ID will have the name of the funeral home,” Clark says. “So in your moment of sadness and grief, you’re automatically like, ‘Oh, the funeral home is calling!’ And it’s this scam.”

How To Protect Yourself Against the Funeral Home Scam

“The criminals are scanning all these posts and then they just start contacting — one after another after another — and they’re very well trained to be very empathetic,” Clark says of the scammers. “And they’re so good at being bad.”

But you can be good at sniffing out these scams. Here’s how:


Never Trust a Caller You Don’t Know

Before an unknown caller even asks for money, you could get scammed if you continue to talk to them and reveal information about yourself. That’s why it’s a good idea to follow Clark’s rule on unknown phone numbers:

“Consider following my rule,” he says. “It’s a simple rule: If I don’t recognize the number as being from someone I know, I do not answer the call.”

If the caller from an unknown number says that they’re from the funeral home, hang up and call the funeral home directly from a verified number found on its website.

Be On Guard Against ‘Urgent’ Calls to Action

“These people have real gall,” Clark says, “and so know that the way scams work are through a sense of urgency. ‘You must do this now.’ And before you have a chance to really think about it, you end up having money stolen.”

The FTC says, “Resist the pressure to act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.”

Pay Attention To How They Ask You To Pay

A major clue as to whether it’s a scam or not is the payment method that you are asked to use.

“Scammers want to get your money immediately, and in a way that makes it hard to track them down and hard for you to get your money back,” says the FTC. “Never pay someone who insists you pay with a wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or a gift card. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.”

Final Thought

Funeral planning, no matter whether it’s burial or cremation services, is stressful enough. Clark says you owe it to yourself to protect you and yours from getting swindled during a grief-stricken time.

One thing that many people have done — and it’s cheaper — is to prepay for a funeral. That way, you will have made most major money decisions in advance without the pressure of the moment weighing on you.

When you’re mourning and in a dark fog because you’re grieving someone you love, it’s easy to fall victim to a scam. “Know that this is going on,” Clark says.