I have recently received several emails from readers who have had difficulty with funeral or cemetery planning. Like one reader told me, “By the time I finished dealing with the funeral home my head was spinning.” So I turned to our partners at the Miami FBI, who once wrote about this issue and asked them to give me an update.
Here’s information provided by Supervisory Special Agent Jason Manar, who is in charge of the squad that investigates cybercrime for FBI Miami:
Caveat emptor is the Latin phrase that means “let the buyer beware.” In other words, make sure you know what you are buying before you sign on the dotted line. This is especially true when planning for your final expenses, where unscrupulous operators may try to overcharge expenses, or even list themselves as financial beneficiaries.
Here are some basic tips for avoiding fraud:
▪ Be an informed consumer. Take time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you, who may offer some perspective to help make difficult decisions. Funeral homes are required to provide detailed general price lists over the telephone or in writing.
▪ Educate yourself fully about caskets before you buy one, and understand that caskets are not required for direct cremations.
▪ Understand the difference between funeral home basic fees for professional services and any fees for additional services.
▪ Know that embalming rules are governed by state law and that embalming is not legally required for direct cremations.
▪ Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing, and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing.
▪ Make sure you understand all contract cancellation and refund terms, as well as your portability options for transferring your contract to other funeral homes.
▪ Before you consider prepaying, make sure you are well informed. When you do make a plan for yourself, share your specific wishes with those close to you.
▪ As a general rule governing all of your interactions as a consumer, do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.
You need to be careful and alert when it comes to making arrangements. I have had readers tell me that they have had people knocking on their door selling funeral arrangements. Some have had emails promising them great deals and once they invite them to their home the story changes. You need to make sure you go to a reputable funeral home, do it on your own time with a clear head, not after the death of someone you love — believe me when I tell you that they work on your emotions.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.