It is a sad fact of life scam artists frequently prey on the vulnerable. Unfortunately, some of those victims can include people who have recently lost loved ones. The Better Business Bureau cautions those with elderly parents to bear this in mind when their mother or father dies.
It might make sense to gently counsel the surviving parent to be alert to the following ploys, which have been reported to BBBs:
Contracts for services allegedly signed before the spouse’s death. Less-than-ethical people offering driveway paving, tree-trimming or other home-related services sometimes visit the surviving spouse in the weeks after the funeral. When the spouse claims they know nothing about having hired the company, the sales rep produces a contract, allegedly signed by the husband before his death. The signature is typically scribbled or blurred and the service is highly priced. The company states it won’t require the widow to take the service, but insists she pay the agreed-upon fee. They remind her how “forgetful” her spouse used to be and that is why he never informed her about the contracted work.
Specially engraved items. After the funeral, the surviving spouse receives in the mail a fountain pen, Bible or a trinket engraved with the name of the recently deceased. Included with the invoice is a note from the business, with a message saying, “I thought you’d want this to remember him by.” Sometimes the item is engraved with the name of the surviving spouse, and the note from the company mentions the deceased spouse had ordered the gift especially for him or her.
Delinquent life insurance premium ploy. An insurance “agent” phones the surviving spouse, with an employee allegedly from the funeral home also on the line. The widower is advised his wife’s life insurance premium was delinquent and he must pay $3,000 so the insurance funds can be released to the funeral home. He is asked for his credit card number to make a partial payment on the premium and to wire the remaining amount to the insurance company. Turns out both the insurance company representative and the funeral home employee are bogus.
Scam artists probably obtain the names and general information of their victims from obituaries published online or in local newspapers. Seniors are advised to check with the BBB whenever they are contacted by an unknown individual or business demanding payment for an unfamiliar product or service. After the loss of a loved one, never make rush decisions without first ensuring you are dealing with a trustworthy company. Also be sure to discuss these issues with other family members and be very cautious of anyone who tries to persuade you to skip this step.
For more tips, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. Questions or complaints should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.