It’s a fact of life that there are unscrupulous individuals in the world who make their living as scam artists and some prey upon the elderly, even to the point of committing fraud when it comes to funeral planning.
Elderly as Targets for Scam Artists
The FBI warns that senior citizens, in their definition those born between 1930 and 1950, are frequently the targets of fraud schemes. The FBI points out that people of those decades were taught to be polite and possibly trusting and may be unwilling to say no. The elderly are prey to scam artists because seniors have a steady income usually in the form of Social Security, may own their homes without a mortgage, and may have an excellent credit rating.
Often seniors will not report scams that have been perpetrated against them because they are ashamed of being thought gullible, fear that they may be perceived as incompetent by family members, or simply don’t even realize the scam, until it is too late. Scam artists also rely on the fact that senior memory is fragile and the elderly may not be good witnesses if a matter eventually comes to court months later.
Many seniors wish to spare their loved ones the burdens of planning a funeral. Also Medicaid allows individuals to prepay funeral costs as a way to reduce assets and qualify for help with medical expenses. Unfortunately, unscrupulous funeral homes may prey upon the elderly when they are ill and are potentially facing a nursing home stay.
The FBI lists a number of warnings to avoid funeral fraud. Caskets vary greatly in price; know the features of the casket that is being purchased and why it costs what it does. Understand that a casket and embalming are not required for direct cremation when there is no viewing.
Under the law, funeral homes must provide detailed general price lists over the telephone or in writing. Funeral homes charge basic fees and additional fees for other services they provide. Understand what is covered for each type of fee. And, be aware of the “up sell” to products or services not needed or desired.
As with all contracts, read and understand the terms before signing and be sure that everything discussed pertaining to the funeral plan is put in writing. Find out the cancellation and refund terms as well as portability options of the contract to another funeral home should the need arise.
Attorney at Law