04/26/07 — Funeral home customers enoounter insurance scam

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Funeral home customers enoounter insurance scam

By Lee Williams
Published in News on April 26, 2007 1:57 PM

Grieving relatives who have recently lost a loved one -- beware.

Criminals are working to bilk those who have experienced a recent death in the family out of money through an insurance scam, local officials say.

Funeral homes in Hendersonville and Goldsboro have already been targeted, and the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service wants to get the word out -- before it's too late.

"There have been two instances reported in which an individual has contacted families through the funeral homes providing funeral services or that recently provided services," said Paul Harris, North Carolina Board of Funeral Service executive director. "The contact has been through telephone calls. The male caller has identified himself as an insurance company representative and informed the family that the deceased owned a life insurance policy or policies with the company.

"The person explains that the premium payments are in arrears and the full proceeds will be released if the family would forward the amount in arrears to the 'company.' He asked for a credit card number as payment and may have asked for money to be wired to Augusta, Ga."

The first case was reported by a funeral home in Hendersonville.

"The funeral home and family were contacted by telephone during the scheduled visitation at the funeral home," he said. "The caller hung up when the funeral home staff and family tried to obtain additional information."

The second case was reported by a funeral home in Goldsboro.

The Goldsboro Police Department contacted the board on Tuesday and reported they were investigating a matter filed with them by the family of the deceased, Harris said.

Details of the case were unavailable. Police officials did not return a call for comment.

However, Harris said the events in the Goldsboro case closely matched the details of the events reported in Hendersonville.

He urged residents who suffered a recent death in the family to exercise caution when dealing with financial and insurance matters.

"If contacted, ask for the caller's contact information in order to verify the authenticity of the call," he said. "Consumers should not give out any personal information such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or bank account numbers over the telephone or Internet under any circumstances unless the company or caller can be verified."

Officials said the problem appears to be on the rise and greed might be a chief motivator for the insurance scam artists.

Harris said anyone who might have experienced a similar problem should call local law enforcement authorities.