NFDA has received numerous reports from members who have been contacted by scam artists in recent weeks. These scams run the gamut from people pretending they want to purchase cremation jewelry to individuals claiming a relative has died in another country and needing repatriation assistance. Scammers contact funeral homes in a variety of ways (fax, email, relay operators, etc.), and the calls can originate from anywhere in the world.
To minimize your risk of falling victim to a scam, please take these guidelines to heart:
- Be wary of requests to ship merchandise to an international address; many scams initiate overseas.
- When an American citizen dies overseas and the remains must be returned to the United States, the nearest embassy or consulate will issue a certificate to accompany the casket. You should still personally verify the legitimacy of a death overseas and the intent to repatriate a body by contacting the State Department's Overseas Citizens Services Office at 888-407-4747.
- Review the information in your NFDA Directory of Members & Transportation Guide regarding repatriation issues and how to protect your firm and those you serve from scams.
- Another sign of a possible scam involves inquiries sent from an email address associated with a free email service (e.g., Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.). These services require no billing relationship with the consumer, making users very difficult to trace, and are therefore preferred by scammers.
- Remember that simply because a charge goes through on a credit card does not mean it's legitimate. That credit card might have been stolen and a chargeback might eventually be made against your funeral home when the theft is discovered. Therefore, be very careful about accepting credit card payments when contact is initiated by a consumer via email, fax or telephone.
- Never wire funds back to a consumer, especially overseas. Moreover, do not provide account information to an overseas consumer who needs to "deposit funds" into your account.
- Never ship merchandise until you verify that a personal or business check has actually cleared the bank and the funds sit in your account.
- Be suspicious whenever a purchase order involves several pieces of the same merchandise.
- Be wary when someone asks you to ship merchandise to a single address but wants the transaction billed to multiple credit cards.
- If you are contacted by someone asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. Guard your account information carefully.
- Be skeptical of individuals asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts or in transferring money from an overseas bank account to an account in the United States.
- Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
- If you're contacted by a scammer, you can register a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov.
Make sure that all employees at your firm, as well as your firm's answering service, are aware of the potential for scams by sharing these guidelines with them.