Crooks Using Obituaries to Scam Widows

An obituary is a way that family members can honor their deceased loved one and provide information to the community about funeral arrangements and contribution requests. Unfortunately, the widow and other family members can fall victim to several scams as a result of information contained in the obituary.

Robbery During the Funeral

While family and friends are gathered to celebrate the life of the loved one, their homes are being broken into and valuables stolen. If the family is local, they can hit multiple homes while the funeral service is taking place.

The way to mitigate the exposure to this scam is to avoid putting full names and home addresses of family members in the obituary. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your homes while you are attending the service. Finally, a good security system is always a deterrent to breaking and entering, and should be considered now that the widow or widower are living alone.

Telephone Scams to the Widow

During this tumultuous time, the widow does not have time to focus on what bills need to be paid, and the various due dates of those bills. As a result, a person phoning the widow and insisting that a payment is past due could legitimately happen. However, this is also an excellent time for scammers to trick the widow into giving credit card or bank account information over the phone to avoid the consequences of a past due bill.

The family should openly discuss this scam and warn the widow not to be pressured into providing any credit card or bank account information over the phone. The widow should be advised to ask the caller to mail a copy of the bill to the home. This gives the widow an opportunity to review the legitimacy of the bill, and talk to other family members who can help confirm that the amount is real.

Most legitimate companies will be sympathetic during this difficult emotional time and will be willing to extend payment terms or waive late fees. All it usually takes is a simple phone call to the vendor to let them know when payment can be expected.

Charitable Donation Scams

Similar to the phone call to the widow claiming a debt is owed, scammers also might contact the mourners at a funeral. They would claim that they are calling on behalf of the bereaved widow and then request a donation to a charity. Again, they will request credit card or bank information from you.

Do not make payments in response to an incoming solicitation. Donations can always be made to the charity requested by the family, but make sure your money goes directly to that charity, not through a third party.

Reba Rogers, CPA, is the founder of Secure Aging, a group of care managers who preserve the independence and protect the assets of seniors by helping them with financial management. She is also a Director Consultant for BNI (Business Network International), a referral marketing organization which gives her access to many trusted business professionals in the community.


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