When Shopping for Funeral Services, Be Wary

excerpted by CENTS: Consumer Education and Training Services from an article by Ann Carrns from the Seattle Times (5/15/22)

The funeral and cremation service industry has increased in demand since the pandemic. People shopping for funeral or cremation services are in a vulnerable position and may be unfamiliar with the process which can lead to overpaying or being scammed. Many companies such as Legacy Cremation Services and Heritage Cremation Provider have been under investigation by the Justice Department on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission for withholding family member’s remains until members pay inflated costs. This predatory behavior is illegal but unfortunately, very common. Not only this, but cremation service providers may say that they offer local services nearby, but in fact, they are just a middleman and arrange services much further away. Many customers have been forced to travel long distances to obtain remains.

To avoid being scammed or taken advantage of when choosing a cremation provider, it is important to contact several providers and ask for the location of the cremation center and request a visit. However, be aware, that not all providers have the same location for both cremation services and funeral homes and it may not be designed for tours. However, if the provider refuses to give a physical address, this is a red flag for scams.

It is also important to know that there are still funeral benefits for deaths related to COVID-19 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They are paying up to $9,000 in funeral expenses for deaths that occurred after January 20, 2020. Applicants can call 844-684-6333. There is no application fee. The government has issued a warning to be wary of scam calls, emails and mailings that offer funeral benefits. It is important to know that FEMA will not contact you until you apply for benefits. Lastly, if you have seen such scams, you may file a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov.