Preventing Identity Theft When Your Loved One Dies

Thieves are always looking for ways to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and the bereaved are no exception.  In fact, thieves often use obituaries to target homes when they know family members will be attending funeral services.  To prevent this from occurring, family members can ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to house sit during the services.

On August 3, 2017, the National Funeral Director’s Association issued an alert about a NEW scam involving possible identity theft against the deceased and their families.  This time, after reading the obituary, scammers filed a change of address form to have the deceased’s mail forwarded to an address in another state.  As it takes about two weeks for the change of address to take effect and the mail to start to be forwarded, it took some time for the family to discover that this had occurred.  However, the Post Office provided them the bogus change of address form.  Unfortunately, there is no telling what information the thief accessed during this time.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  If the deceased lived alone, then the executor or administrator of the estate should promptly alert the post office and file USPS Form 3575 to forward the mail to another address.  Form 3575 does not require the executor or administrator to include any probate court documents confirming the appointment, but does require the individual to certify on the form that he or she has been appointed.  False claims on the form constitute a criminal act.  Doing this immediately can reduce the risk of identity theft and provide the bereaved family with one less thing about which to worry.

You can find USPS Form 3575 here:

The Race to the Bottom: Is Price the Only Consideration When Choosing a Funeral Home or Cremation Provider?

Knowledge, quality, service, personalization, legally compliant, going above and beyond, time spent with the family – these are the qualities that people take for granted that they will receive when choosing a funeral home or crematory.  However, there appears to be a race to the bottom in the funeral industry that is negatively impacting the ability of funeral homes and crematories or cremation providers to meet these expectations and many families are walking away from the burial or cremation of a loved one – disappointed.

With on-line options touting cheap cremations and some funeral homes BOLDLY UNDERLINING IN ITALICIZED CAPS THAT THEY WILL PRICE MATCH,  it is clear that the funeral industry incorrectly believes that the number one priority to someone shopping for a funeral home or crematory is price.   And by trying to be the cheapest, many in the funeral industry have initiated a race to the bottom by cutting corners.  Some families tell stories of illegal solicitation efforts, of being offered “Factory Second” urns, being rushed through their initial meeting, receiving the cremated remains of their loved one in the mail, or not being provided options for a service or help with insurance or the option to purchase death certificates, just to name a few.

The final disposition following a death is just that – final.  Families only have one opportunity to have it done right.  There are no do-overs.  So while consumers and funeral homes have been trained to buy and sell solely on price, the race to the bottom, to be the cheapest, has the potential to leave a family bereft and unhappy with how the final disposition of their loved one has been handled.

What can you do to ensure that your expectations are met?  When shopping for a funeral home, crematory, or cremation provider, look beyond the price.  Ask yourself, what am I giving up by going with the cheapest option?  Am I missing out on using a local business who hires locals and volunteers time and money to the community?  Am I missing out on knowledge, or quality, or service?  Am I using a funeral home that engages in shady or illegal practices or finds other ways to cut corners?  And if a funeral home is visibly cutting corners, how might they be cutting corners with my loved one when I am not in the room?  Am I missing out by using a funeral home or cremation provider that really cares and is going to take time with me and help me build a positive foundation for grief?  Am I using a middleman who is going to ship my loved one hours away to be cremated?

In other words, look beyond price and ask questions about what makes a funeral home or crematory or cremation provider different and ask questions about things that are important to you.

You can no longer expect a certain level of service when contracting a funeral or cremation – the race to the bottom, to be the cheapest, has created an environment in which funeral homes and cremation providers are doing whatever they can to cut costs, doing whatever they can to provide a consumer with the cheapest funeral or cremation out there, when maybe what the consumer really wants is for their loved one’s funeral or cremation done well and done right.