Scam Artists Reach a New Low With Despicable Funeral Deception
To quote Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies, these people are "lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut." Fleecing people out of their hard-earned money using the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program.
Part of the Federal Government's Coronavirus Relief and Rescue packages, was the Funeral Assistance Program. It provided financial assistance to help offset expensive funeral arrangements to families who lost a loved one from COVID-19. Heartless scammers are using the program to trick grieving family members and steal their personal information.
The scammer, pretending to be with FEMA or another agency, sends an email, text message, or phone call claiming you qualify for financial assistance from the program. To begin the process of collecting funds you'll need to register the deceased person's information. As usual, this is where they try to get names, birth dates, and social security numbers. In a state of grieve over the loved one's passing, people tend to let their guard down. Sharing personal information, even from someone who has passed away, can lead to identity theft.
Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau on Avoiding the Scam
- No matter what scammers claim, you don’t need to take immediate action.
- There is no deadline to apply.
- No cap on funding has been set, so funds are not going to run out.
- Be wary of any unexpected calls/messages claiming to be from the government.
Government agencies rarely contact you unless you have already contacted them or applied for a program. If you are contacted and it seems suspicious hang up or quit responding to messages and contact the FEMA Helpline: 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline: 866-720-5721.