Scammers prey on grieving families, impersonating funeral homes

August 21, 2023

Scammers prey on grieving families, impersonating funeral homes
Scammers are impersonating funeral homes to steal money
The scammer spoofed the funeral home’s number, even knew employees’ names
FTC: Resist pressure to act immediately, contact the funeral home directly
Xavier Walton

Updated: AUG 18, 2023 / 08:06 AM CDT

(NewsNation) — Scammers are impersonating funeral home staff to prey on mourning families, the Federal Trade Commission warned.

One California woman, who is still dealing with her own grief, shared her story with NewsNation to warn others.

Jen Lothspeich met her husband Dustin Lothspeich in 2012, got married and ended up having a child together, named Harrison.

But in March, 40-year-old Dustin died unexpectedly and changed Jen’s whole life.

“I’m thankful for all the time that we had, but I’m bitter for all the time that we don’t,” Jen said.

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While planning a final farewell to her late husband, and hanging on by an emotional thread, Jen received a call from what she thought was the mortuary, which was saved in her phone with the director’s name.

She explained that the man on the phone said he was a coworker of the funeral director Jen had been talking with, claiming that there was an issue with insurance that wasn’t settled and that she owed $49.90.

But Jen panicked, thinking she owed almost $5,000.

The scammer spoofed the funeral home’s number and even knew the employees by name, Jen said.

Another incident similar to Jen’s happened in Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Commerce said scammers were using obituaries to select their targets.

“At this point, they’re probably at their lowest and most vulnerable position they are in life,” Eugene Fahey, the vice president of Altmeyer Funeral Homes, said.

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This is one reason why the FTC sent out a warning, saying to resist the pressure to act immediately and to always contact the funeral home directly. Another tip the FTC shared was to make sure to note how the scammers tell their victims to pay.

“You’re not in the right mind at that point,” Jen said.

When Jen discovered it was a scam, she said she felt sick.

“The last thing he did was call me back and said, ‘We are going to refuse your business because of how rude you’ve been to us. You’re going to have to figure out what to do with your husband.’”

The scammer threatened Jen into thinking the funeral home would just be done with her husband’s body and that she would have to figure it all out on her own.

Jen didn’t fall for the scam, but according to the National Funeral Directors Association, others have. The association is aware of these scams and is notifying places across the country as well.