What is funeral and cemetery fraud?
Funeral and cemetery fraud is one of the most common scams perpetrated on the elderly. Dishonest funeral homes and cemeteries take advantage of those most vulnerable and play with their emotions to make more profit.
Funeral and cemetery fraud is used to describe a wide range of scams, including selling plots to multiple families, treating the deceased disrespectfully, taking advantage of the elderly or grieving families to sell more expensive funeral plans and caskets, and not delivering the agreed services upon death. In extreme situations, funeral or cemetery fraud can mean severe disrespect for the deceased, misplaced bodies, incorrect cremation, body abandonment, and selling of organs.
Perhaps the most common type of funeral fraud is funeral homes trying to sell unnecessary services or items. For example, a funeral home may use manipulation tactics to try and convince you to buy the more expensive casket. Commonly, they show the most expensive one first, then the cheapest option, and finally the middle option. This is a common tactic used to convince people to pick the middle option as people do not want to appear cheap when burying their loved ones. Some funeral homes also try to sell caskets with the so-called protective features, and they, of course, cost extra hundreds of dollars. In reality, those features don’t actually protect neither the casket nor the body.
Another common scam tries to take advantage of those looking to buy a packaged deal. These deals are often presented as a cheaper option because of all the discounts that are applied. For example, it may seem like buying a casket is cheaper if comes as part of the packaged deal. However, additional fees are often added to these deals, making the total amount higher than if you were to purchase services and items individually.
Fraudulent funeral homes may also try to convince you to purchase expensive caskets for cremation. Honest funeral homes will explain that expensive caskets are not necessary for cremation and will certainly not try to pressure you.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of funeral and cemetery fraud, do not hesitate to report it to law enforcement. Furthermore, many law firms now take up cases that deal with cemetery and funeral fraud.
Tips for how to avoid funeral and cemetery fraud
- Do not allow yourself to feel pressured into making a purchase or signing a contract.
Fraudulent funeral homes may try to pressure you into making certain decisions and signing a contract by taking advantage of the sensitive time. You should never rush decisions about your own funeral so do not give in if you feel pressured. You should always read contracts and agreements before signing, more so if you are pressured into signing as soon as possible.
- Make sure you understand contract cancellation terms.
If you are making arrangements in advance, keep in mind that your wishes may change in the future. Before signing any kind of contract, make sure you understand cancellation and refund terms.
- If you have signed a contract with a funeral home for yourself, inform those close to you about your wishes.
If you have signed a contract and made arrangements, make sure to inform those close to you about your wishes and what to expect. If your family knows the details about your wishes and your arrangements, it will help avoid them being taken advantage of by fraudulent funeral homes.
- Do not be afraid to shop around before committing.
If you wish to be prepared for yourself in advance, do not choose the first funeral home you come across. Do not be afraid to shop around to make sure all your requirements will be met. If there is a budget you need to stick to, inquire about prices over the phone to save time.
- Do your research.
Before going to a funeral home or meeting a cemetery employee, it’s important to know how much such services cost in general. If you have a general idea of what to expect, it will be more difficult for fraudulent funeral homes to take advantage and offer more expensive or unnecessary services. You can inquire about prices over the phone as well. It’s also a good idea to research funeral homes and read about other people’s experiences.