Scambuster: Funeral service scam targets grieving Alabama families

wiat - SYLACAUGA, Ala. (WIAT) – The Alabama Board of Funeral Service is warning grieving families in the state about a despicable scam that has seen an uptick in reports over the past week.  According to officials, it's a sophisticated scam where callers are pretending to be an employee from the specific funeral home and demanding more cash for services or merchandise.

"Understand these scammers, when they're calling, they're spoofing the funeral home's phone number and so it shows up on the family's caller ID as if the call is coming from the funeral home," explained Alabama Board of Funeral Service Executive Director, Charles Perine.  "They use the name of an individual who works at the funeral home to make them think they're talking to the funeral home."

Perine said the scammers know the funeral industry and that they can be very convincing over the phone.  The complaints have been state-wide.

"They'll try to get them to send more money," he explained, "telling them things like there's more money needed for the cemetery space.  We had one family where they actually said that the body was in bad condition and had to be embalmed and they needed to send $3,000 to them."

The board has gotten five reports in just the past two days.  One of those reports is from out of Sylacauga.

"These people call, tell them that there's a balance due on their funeral home bill," explained Sgt. Mike Smith.  "The chief told me that these people had  cremated their loved one, and they said they owed money–so they knew it was a scam."

They have some advice for anyone who receives one of these calls.  First, under no circumstances should you send any money.  Officials recommend hanging up and calling your funeral home directly–or go to the funeral home in person.  Finally, report the incident to your local police department.

Perine said the board is working with the Alabama District Attorney's Office to investigate the complaints.  They are still trying to determine what each of the cases have in common, and how the scammers have gotten information about the bereaved families.


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