- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that criminals are creating COVID-19 funeral scams. The announcement comes just days after the federal agency launched a new program to provide relief to the families of loved ones who died from COVID-19.
- As part of the funeral scam, criminals contact people offering to register them for funeral assistance. Identity thieves are looking to steal money, as well as personal and financial information, to commit identity theft.
- If you receive an unsolicited message offering to assist in registering for the program, you should contact FEMA directly. Also, you should never pay a fee or share personal information with anyone who sends an unsolicited message to obtain a government benefit on your behalf.
- To report a funeral scam, call FEMA’s Helpline at 800.621.3362. To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat at the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is doing what it can to help the families of loved ones who died from COVID-19. However, due to criminals, everyone needs to be on the lookout for COVID-19 funeral scams.
FEMA started a program in mid-April that offers up to $9,000 in relief to help families cover the funeral expenses for those who passed after June 20, 2020, from COVID-19. However, criminals have found a way to take advantage of the newest program.
FEMA has sounded the alarm with a fraud alert. They have received reports of scammers reaching out to people by phone, email, and online, offering to register them for funeral assistance. However, FEMA says that is not how the program works.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has received more than 1,500 reports of identity fraud related to government benefits since the beginning of the pandemic.
Who are the Targets?
The families and friends of loved ones who died from COVID-19 who are applying for FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.
What is the Scam?
FEMA says criminals are contacting people and offering to register them for funeral assistance. However, the criminals are asking for “fees” and other options to “expedite the process” to register for funeral expenses.
According to FEMA, any efforts that charge fees to assist in the application process are scams. The application process begins when you call the agency’s Funeral Assistance Line at 844.684.6333. FEMA will not contact you about the program unless you have already contacted them.
What They Want
Scammers hope to make away with either money or you or your deceased loved one’s personal information to commit an identity crime in you or your loved one’s name.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
- If someone contacts you about the assistance program and you did not either apply or call FEMA directly, ignore it because it is a COVID-19 funeral scam. FEMA will not reach out until you either call them or apply for assistance.
- Do not pay a fee for quicker service because that is another sign of a funeral scam. The government will not ask you to pay anything to get the FEMA benefits.
- Do not provide your own or your deceased loved one’s personal or financial information to anyone based on an unsolicited call, text message, or email claiming to come from FEMA or another federal agency.
- If you received a COVID-19 funeral scam call or email, report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800.621.3362.
Contact the ITRC
If you believe you are a victim of the COVID-19 funeral scam, received a suspicious message and want to know if it is a funeral scam, or want to learn more, contact the ITRC toll-free. You can call (888.400.5530) or use the live-chat function on the company website. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.