Randy Yohe Published

Online Obituary Scam Targets Most Vulnerable

A closed brown, wooden casket with colorful flowers laying on top.Mary Stark/Adobe Stock

An online and phone funeral obituary scam is preying on West Virginians in the throes of bereavement.

West Virginia Board of Funeral Service Examiners President Gene Fahey has warned the state’s 500 or so funeral directors to alert families to the scam.

Fahey said the scammers begin by looking up obituary listings on funeral home websites. Then, using a staff name from that website, they google the next of kin and call them asking for money and credit card information before they can proceed with the funeral arrangements.

“When you make arrangements at a funeral home, many people have never done it in their life,” Fahey said. “Often, they’re not sure what the process is. But unless there is a person who is doing this from a distance, meaning that they are out of the country or out of town, and they’re trying to make some arrangements via the internet, most families meet with a funeral director in person.” 

The targeted victims are surviving spouses or the elderly. 

“They may have never gone through this process in their life and they’re extremely vulnerable,” Fahey said. “It’s really sickening that someone in this world would try to exploit their vulnerability.”

Fahey said at least two West Virginia families have received these scam calls with more happening in neighboring states.  

“Fortunately, both of those West Virginia families immediately called the funeral home and reported what had happened,” Fahey said. “That gave us the heads up to make sure that we get the word out so that we can let families know that funeral homes are saying that this is a potential scam that’s going on. Please do not fall for it.” 

Fahey said most funeral arrangements are made face to face at the funeral home.

“They discuss all the arrangements, they discuss different options, discuss the options for payment,” he said. “They never would call and demand payment without the family being aware that a call was going to be taking place. It would not happen in this profession.”