All scams are, by definition, immoral and illegal. Even so, it’s hard to come up with one as immoral and illegal as a funeral or cemetery scam.
A loved one has died, a family is in mourning, and a scammer is willing and eager to take advantage of them in their hour of grief. You can hardly get lower than that.
In preparing for funerals, especially when the death is sudden, survivors will often tend to be disoriented and unable to concentrate on costs. That’s what makes them an attractive target for dishonest businessmen. Moreover, funerals and burials can be expensive. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation in the United States is $6,260. A traditional adult funeral with viewing and burial in a vault raises the amount to $8,755. And those prices do not include the cost of a grave. The bottom line is that funerals are so expensive it’s relatively easy for a dishonest funeral director to pad the bill without the family even knowing it.
One common way to pad the bill is by padding the coffin. Literally. One common trick used by a funeral director seeking to take advantage of the family comes when they choose a coffin. Instead of showing the family a plain pine box first, they will see a series of expensive coffins made of quality hardwoods. Inside, they will be padded with silk (rather than cotton), and they may also feature a gasket that’s supposed to prevent water from seeping in (but it will anyway).
They certainly look more impressive than plain pine boxes, and relatives planning an open coffin at a viewing or wake will be enticed to choose one of them before they even think of asking if a cheaper model is available. But that may not be the end of it. There are cases when the expensive coffin is switched with a cheaper version before the body is placed in the hearse and driven to the cemetery for burial. Since the casket may be covered by that time with a flag, wreaths, flowers, or some sort of ritual object, the switcheroo might not be easily noticed before it is lowered into the grave.
Do not agree to bury a loved one in a cemetery that is chosen by a funeral director unless and until you inspect it in advance. Is the price of the grave reasonable? Are the cemetery grounds well maintained? Does it offer perpetual care? Are security procedures sufficient to prevent trespassing after the gates are closed? Have there been any reported cases of desecration? Seek out the advice and experiences of other families online.
Moreover, can you be assured that the grave you are buying wasn’t previously sold to someone else? Even honest cemetery administrators can and do make mistakes.
If the deceased will be cremated, there is no need for a coffin. If there is to be a viewing or wake before the cremation, funeral homes can provide a rental casket. And no, a body that will be cremated does not need to be embalmed (nor, of course, does a body that will be buried). Cosmetics will suffice if there is to be a viewing.
While a there’s no need to buy a coffin for someone who will be cremated there is a need to buy an urn. They are easily obtained online, where prices are competitive. The funeral home can provide one as well but expect to pay more. A lot more.
Bes sure, therefore, to read all the fine print before signing a contract. The easiest way to be scammed is to be talked into purchasing something that isn’t necessary.
It is quite common, especially in the United States, for an individual to contract for funeral expenses while still alive. The contract is a package deal that will include every conceivable service from the moment of death to the setting of the tombstone or plaque. The perceived benefit is that dealing with all this in advance saves the grieving survivors from having to make all the arrangements on their own and pay for it themselves.
Needless to say, any of the scams mentioned above can sneak into pre-paid plans as well.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a funeral or cemetery scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.