Lisa Ann Motto of Florida lost her husband Doug in July. The next day, she came close to being a victim of a phone scam targeting family members planning funerals.
Facebook/Lisa Ann Motto
Telephone scammers have reached a new low — targeting mourning family members planning funerals for their loved ones.
Crooks will call families and say they are from the funeral home and threaten that services or cremations will be canceled if they don’t make an immediate deposit.
“If there was a Scammers Hall of Shame, this one would make the Top 10 List, without question,” the Federal Trade Commission wrote in a post, calling it “despicable.”
The scam starts with scouring recent obituaries to identify families and find the other details they need, like the name of the funeral home and even the directors.
The con artists have a few different lines. Some tell the family that there was a problem with their credit card or they need additional funds for the arrangements to stay on schedule, according to the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association.
Others say to tell the victim that services will be canceled if they don’t send money, or try to convince them they’re paying for insurance to cover the services in case something happens.
The scammers also struck in Florida.
Lisa Ann Motto lost her husband of 22 years to lung cancer in July.
The very next day, the Bonita Springs widow received an “urgent” call from a man saying she needed to send $5,000 — or an initial installment of $2,500 — through Zelle or Apple Pay for “insurance purposes” related to the cremation, she told NBC News.
“They just catch you at such a weak moment,” said Motto. “There’s a special place in hell for people like that.”
The funeral home that handled her husband’s services is working with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Myers to investigate the incident, she posted on Facebook.
The FTC offers several tips to spot and avoid the scam.
Resist pressure to act immediately, the agency advises, adding that honest businesses will give time to make decisions.
Never pay through wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or checks, it also says.
Families should contact funeral homes directly with numbers from the websites.
Fraud can be reported to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.