By Wendy McHaney

Another way that con artists prey on seniors is through funeral and cemetery fraud. This type of fraud often targets senior citizens because the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks – or more likely, years – after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events. The following are some common fraud tactics used: • Not allowing you to see the prices. By law funeral homes must provide you with an itemized list of all their goods and services – including both packages and a la carte options.

• Pressuring you to decide now. Funeral homes have a better chance of getting results if they keep you on site until you’ve made all of your decisions and put down a deposit on the funeral of your choosing, which often leads to impulsive decisions and overspending.

Forcing you to buy from them. You do not have to buy all of your funeral items from the same funeral home (in fact, the law says the exact opposite). • Pre-plan funerals over the phone. A funeral pre-plan package can be a good deal, but it’s best to consider one of these plans with the help of an estate planning attorney or funeral home you trust. Never give any financial information over the phone.

• Requiring you to embalm or preserve. The only situations in which this has to be done is when travel over some state lines is involved. If you don’t want to embalm the deceased, you don’t have to.

Tips for avoiding funeral, cemetery fraud

• Be an informed consumer. Take time to call and shop around before making a purchase.

• Educate yourself fully about caskets before you buy one, and understand that caskets are not required for direct cremations.

• Understand the difference between funeral home basic fees for professional services and any fees for additional services.

• Know that embalming rules are governed by state law and that embalming is not legally required for direct cremations.

• Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing.

• Make sure you understand all contract cancelation and refund terms as well as your portability options for transferring your contract to other funeral homes.

• Before you consider prepaying, make sure you are well informed.

As long as you take your time, research your options and talk with your family or attorney before you sign any contracts, you should be able to choose the best deal. Never feel pressured to act now or make a decision before you are ready.

Sources: FBI Reports “Senior Citizens Targeted in Sweepstakes Fraud” and “Frauds Impacting Seniors;”

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit

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