Tips for Consumers: Scam artists even target the bereaved

Tips for Consumers
Scam artists even target the bereaved

It is a sad fact of life that scam artists frequently prey on the vulnerable. Those victimized can include people in the Hagerstown area who have recently lost loved ones. We at the Better Business Bureau caution those with elderly parents to gently counsel the surviving parent to be alert to the following ploys, which we have seen over the years:
* Scam artists sometimes show up at the home of the widow in the weeks after the funeral. They claim to have a contract to do driveway paving, tree-trimming or other home-related services. When the spouse claims she knows nothing about having hired the company, the scammer produces a contract, allegedly signed by the husband before his death. The signature is typically scribbled or blurred and the service is highly priced. The salesman says that he won't require the widow to take the service, but insists that she pay the contract money. He reminds her how "forgetful" her spouse used to be and that is why he never informed her about the contracted work.
* Then there are the specially-engraved trinkets. After the funeral, the widow receives in the mail a fountain pen or other gadget engraved with the name of the recently deceased. Included with the invoice is a note from the business, with a message saying, "I thought you'd want this to remember him by." Sometimes the trinket is engraved with the name of the surviving spouse, and the note mentions that her husband had ordered the gift especially for her. They always ask for money.
* A third scam starts when a caller claiming to be an insurance "agent" phones the surviving spouse, with an employee allegedly from the funeral home also on the line. The widower is advised that his wife's life insurance premium was delinquent and that he must pay $3,000 so that the insurance funds can be released to the funeral home. He is asked for his credit card number to pay the premium or wire the money to the insurance company. Naturally both these callers are just crooks.
Scam artists often obtain the names of their victims from obituaries published online or in local newspapers.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.