Paying for a funeral is often an expensive proposition, with costs ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000. That’s why some families opt for a funeral- planning fund. That way, surviving family members struggling with raw emotions after the death of a loved one will have funds needed for the cost of caskets, burial sites and funeral services.
Unfortunately, prepaid funeral scammers know that funeral planning can often be emotionally charged, making it easier to prey on vulnerable families trying to plan ahead.
One of the most despicable prepaid funeral scams prosecuted in recent years involved a Missouri-based company called National Prearranged Services, Inc. (NPS). The Department of Justice found that NPS sold approximately 100,000 prepaid funeral contracts, defrauding thousands of customers in more than 16 states. Losses exceeded $450 million.
So how can you protect yourself and those you love against prepaid funeral fraud?
- Insist on references. Before entering into any significant contract, get to know the party on the other side of the table. Verify pertinent representations. Check for complaints. Contact the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask questions. If you retire to another state, make sure your prepaid plan be honored. Check to see if you can get regular statements from the bank or insurance company holding the funds and a breakdown of what are you actually paying for.
- Consider your options. In lieu of a prepaid funeral plan, you might establish a payable-on-death account at your bank, naming survivors as beneficiaries. Strange as it may sound, comparison shopping among funeral providers also makes sense.
For further information, check out the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.