Funeral Scams to Avoid
Although it seems unthinkable to take advantage of a grieving family to make money, scams and fraud related to the death care industry can happen. As is the case in any field where emotions are high and decision-making is a strained business, unscrupulous vendors and outright scam artists may take advantage of the situation to earn a buck.
The majority of funeral homes operate in conjunction with national laws and regulations related to the funeral planning industry—and do it with compassion. However, if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with any part of the process, be sure and step away from the funeral plans and check with this list of common funeral scams.
- Not Allowing You to See The Prices: Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, funeral homes must provide you with an itemized list of all their goods and services—including both packages and a la carte options. This list must be offered up front and without any other obligation on your part. In many cases, you can even request a copy over the phone or via mail, allowing you the chance to look it over at your leisure.
- Pressuring You to Decide Now: Like car dealerships, funeral homes have a better chance of getting results if they keep you on site until you’ve made all your decisions and put down a deposit on the funeral of your choosing. This exhausting process often leads to impulsive decisions and overspending. You have every right to take your time and ask to return at a later date.
- Forcing You to Buy from Them: There is no law that says you have to buy all your funeral items from the funeral home (in fact, the law says the exact opposite). You are allowed to shop around and order things like caskets, headstones, and funeral flowers from an outside provider—and the funeral home must accept them.
- Pre-Plan Funerals Over the Phone: A funeral pre-plan package can be a good deal, but it’s best to consider one of these plans with the help of an estate planning attorney or funeral home you trust. Never give any financial information over the phone or discuss your advance funeral plans unless you have researched the vendor ahead of time.
- Requiring You to Embalm or Preserve: Embalming and other body modification options are entirely up to you. Although funeral homes may cite health laws or the nature of the death as reasons embalming is “required,” the only situations in which it has to be done include travel over some state lines. If you don’t want to embalm the deceased, you don’t have to.
You should also take extra precautions whenever you are pre-planning a funeral. Although advance plans have gotten a fairly bad reputation in recent years, not all plans are designed to take your money and leave you with a sub-par funeral. As long as you take your time, research your options, and talk with your family or attorney before you sign any contracts, you should be able to choose the best deal. Never feel pressured to “act now” or make a decision before you’re ready—you have the legal and moral right to take your time or find services elsewhere.