Unethical Funeral Homes are Dying to Rip You Off

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ScamBusters.org blows the whistle on unethical -- and often illegal -- funeral practices that could cost you or your loved ones thousands of dollars in a time of grief.

With an average cost including all the extras of over $10,000, a funeral may be one of the most expensive purchases of your life. But if it's so uncomfortable to discuss today, imagine how difficult it will be to talk about funeral arrangements when you're in a state of shock and grief. And that's exactly when you're most vulnerable to being scammed

While most funeral directors are compassionate, caring professionals, some unscrupulous scammers are eager to take advantage of mourners when they're at their most vulnerable.

"With this week's study showing Americans trail 41 other countries in terms of life expectancy, death and dying are at the forefront of the news -- and it's quite an uncomfortable subject for most of us," says Dr. Audri G. Lanford, Co-Director of ScamBusters.org, a public service website that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet scams since 1994.

"With an average cost including all the extras of over $10,000, a funeral may be one of the most expensive purchases of your life. But if it's so uncomfortable to discuss today, imagine how difficult it will be to talk about funeral arrangements when you're in a state of shock and grief. And that's exactly when you're most vulnerable to being scammed," adds Dr. Lanford.

The funeral industry is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and individual states. The "Funeral Rule," which is enforced by the FTC, can be a godsend to a distraught mourner. The Rule contains a number of consumer protection measures -- but they won't do the funeral service consumer any good if the consumer isn't aware of them, says Dr. Lanford.

ScamBusters.org notes that the casket is the focal point for many funeral home scams. For example:

  • Mourners may be steered toward the funeral home's highest-priced display models, and may not be told that much less costly options are available. But according to The Funeral Rule, funeral home staff must give you a price list that includes every casket model the company sells -- before they show you a single casket in the showroom.
  • You may be told you must purchase the casket from the funeral home. Not true, says ScamBusters.org. The Funeral Rule states that consumers can purchase a casket anywhere -- and today there are even retailers selling caskets online.
  • An unscrupulous funeral director may say that the funeral home must charge to store the casket you bought elsewhere, or to dispose of packaging materials. Again, ScamBusters.org cries foul -- A recent FTC opinion strikes down both of these practices.
  • Profit-motivated funeral directors may push a "protective" casket, implying that a special gasket will preserve your loved one's remains indefinitely. The FTC says this claim simply isn't true, and forbids the practice. Some funeral homes have been known to charge $700 for a useless gasket that costs them $20 or less.

Consumers can learn more about how to protect themselves from unscrupulous funeral home practices here.

About ScamBusters.org
ScamBusters.org is a public service that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet fraud since 1994. Founded by Co- Directors Audri and Jim Lanford, ScamBusters.org provides a free weekly email newsletter that shows you how to protect yourself from cunning scammers -- online and offline. ScamBusters.org offers a lively, entertaining and opinionated approach to avoiding the most popular scams, viruses, spyware, phishing scams, identity theft ploys, credit card fraud schemes, and urban legends making the rounds.

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Audri G. Lanford, Ph.D.
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