There are scammers out there who make their living reading the obituary pages of the newspapers. They are searching for relatives or close friends of people who have just died whom they can scam and make some money off the death.
Here is how this scam works. The con artist finds the name of a woman who’s husband has just died and the service is going to be in a Catholic Church and a special mass will be said. The crook now knows his target is a grieving widow who is religious. He dresses as a messenger and delivers a package that he says was ordered by her dead husband just before he passed away. It is allegedly a “Special Engraved Catholic Bible” that the con artist says her husband bought for her just days before he died.
This crook says a down payment of $100 on the $250 “Special Catholic Bible” has already been paid. He shows the distraught wife that the Bible has her name engraved on the it in gold leaf. He says if she wants to keep the Bible gift from her late husband it will cost her just $150, plus $10 sales tax. The Bible probably has a value of $10 and the crook is not going to pay any sales tax. The so-called gold leaf engraving is simply her name written on the Bible with a cheap gold marker pen. Depending of the type of home the widow lives in the con artist may charge as much as $400 for the Bible.
The new widow is still grieving and believes this is the last gift she will every have from her late husband. She is putty in the con artist’s hands.
These con artists also use other items like pen sets, jewelry, or religious crosses as the alleged “last gift” from a loved one.
The best way to fight back is asked for a bill of sale that the late husband or wife allegedly signed, or check his or her credit card payments. Also asked for a business card from the company that is selling the “Special Bible.” Finally tell the con artist that her husband’s best friend is a police fraud detective and you want to contact him first. If the guy is a crook he will be gone in about a minute.
There is another scam that is done over the phone. The crook calls the distraught wife and say her husband paid a down payment of $1,100 on some type of merchandise and if she wants the money returned all she has to do is say so, and pay a restocking fee of $100 and they will send her $1,000. When you are facing funeral costs an extra $1,000 sounds very good. So she puts the $100 on her credit card and the con artist says her $1,000 will arrive the next day by Fedx. Of course it doesn’t, and the scammer continues making these calls from the obituary page all day long.
Never, never give your credit card number to a caller if you don’t know who they are or what company they represent.
Editor’s Note: Also see Funeral Scams on the Scam Alert Page, and How to Plan a Funeral on the Consumer Tips Page.
Always question the cost of the caskets, because some funeral homes will price a casket at $3,500 when you can buy it from a casket store for about $750 plus $50 delivery. Shop around first and don’t get ripped off.