Scams to Watch Out for After the Death of a Loved One
The idea that criminals would target the newly deceased and newly bereaved to take advantage of their loss is almost unthinkable, yet death and funeral scams do happen. People are at their most vulnerable during this time, and it is much more common to make mistakes or let your normal defenses down.
If you have recently lost a loved one, make sure you take steps to avoid these common scams that could target your family.
- Obituary Robberies: Whenever you post public information about where you will be at a certain time, you make your home vulnerable to thieves. Because obituaries usually contain a date, time, and place (and are posted in newspapers and online), some people might use the knowledge that the entire family is away to rob your home. Make sure to lock your doors, turn on your alarm systems, or even ask a neighbor to keep an eye out while you are at the funeral.
- Empty Home Robberies: When a loved one dies and leaves an empty home, it can become a target for prowlers and theft. If you are unable to sell the house right away, make sure you cancel all newspaper subscriptions, put the outside lights on a timer, and take other steps to ensure that the home looks lived in and well-cared for.
- Identity Theft: Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time, but the newly deceased can be especially vulnerable to these types of criminals. They will use Social Security numbers, birthdates, and other personal information to “ghost” someone who is already deceased and assume their identity. Always shred all paperwork containing sensitive information, be careful to check the mail regularly to avoid this happening, and never give out any personal information over the phone.
- Payment Demands: One of the things that legitimately happens after someone passes is the need to pay off all their debts, outstanding loans, and other financial burdens. While you may be legally required to pay many of these debts, you should watch out for scammers who demand payments right away. They may pretend to be a credit card collection company going to collections, a life insurance policy that needs to be paid up before you receive any payout, a home service repair provider who claims work was done, or even someone from the IRS demanding back taxes. You should always double check any invoices sent to the deceased before you pay them. The companies should always offer proof and be able to back up any payment demands with a service contract.
- Home Appraisals: Companies that contact you with the intention to appraise the deceased’s home and possessions rarely have your best interests in mind. While estate sales can (and often are) run by reputable organizations that deal with the newly bereaved, you generally contact them yourself. Anyone pressuring you to get inside to take a look at the deceased’s valuables is not someone you want to work with.