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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:  https://www.change-of-address-online.com/resource/download/form3575.pdf

Found A Cheap, “Local,” Online Cremation? It Might Be Too Good To Be True . . .

UPDATE from the Texas Funeral Service Commission:  “The Commission is alerting Texas consumers that Heritage Crematory Services advertises its services in Texas but it does not hold a license in the state. As such, the Commission has limited jurisdiction to help resolve complaints against the entity.  Prior to pay or agreeing to pay for funeral services, consumers are urged to check the Commission website to ensure the entity is licensed in Texas.”

ORIGINAL POST:

On June 29, 2017, the National Funeral Directors Association sent out an alert to funeral homes across the United States regarding Heritage Cremation Providers, “an online cremation business that has been the target of state enforcement actions in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee.”  This provider appears on the top of google searches for “local cremations” regardless of city, including cities in our local area such as Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Burnet, Llano, Kingsland, Granite Shoals and Bertram.  As the only local crematory in the Highland Lakes area, Putnam DOES NOT make removals, or cremate for, this provider.  Therefore, this provider in NO WAY offers local cremations.

“On its website, this Provider, which also operates under the name of Legacy Funeral Service, portrays itself as a low-cost, family-owned, locally based cremation service. In actuality, it is a scandal-ridden middleman that collects payments from consumers for cremation services and then outsources all of the work to funeral homes and crematories that perform removals and carry out the cremation. Due to numerous misrepresentations on its website, its lack of licensing, and a track record of carelessness and incompetence, it has drawn the scrutiny of state enforcement agencies and the Federal Trade Commission.

These two companies were able to operate unchecked for several years because they were selling cremation services over the internet. As such, they did not have a physical base of operations which makes it difficult for state licensing authorities to pursue them. But, faced with a mountain of consumer complaints, state agencies have begun to issued fines and injunctions against them. In addition, apparently 30 complaints have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission, although it is not known if the FTC is actively investigating this company.

According to reports from the Better Business Bureau, which currently gives this provider a D- grade, Heritage Cremation Providers, Legacy Funeral Services, and its owners Joseph Damiano and Anthony Joseph Damiano have been ordered to cease and desist operations in Florida, Georgia and Colorado. Moreover, in North Carolina, the State Funeral Board has advised funeral homes in that state that if they perform services for this provider, that they will be charged with aiding and abetting an unlicensed provider of cremation.

Even in states where there is no current order against this provider, funeral homes and crematories should be aware of the numerous enforcement actions from around the country.”