Crooks using FEMA benefits to trick you

As if losing a loved one to COVID-19 isn’t enough, crooks are now taking advantage of your pain.

A warning has been issued about bad guys using a new federal program that helps families with COVID-19 funeral expenses to their advantage.

The average cost of a funeral in the U.S. is about $9,000. Recent legislation directs FEMA to provide funding to assist with COVID-related funeral costs. To get financial assistance, you have to apply, and if there’s money to be given out by the government, you can be sure scammers will be close behind. Their goal: to get a hold of your personal information to conduct identity theft and access your financial accounts.

“They’re playing on a person’s vulnerabilities and fears. These folks have lost family members to the COVID virus and that’s exactly what they are playing on here, that I can make life easier for you if you give me this information and we will shepherd you through the system,” said Don Hamaty, retired FBI special agent.

FEMA has posted online very specifically that they will not be contacting you about funeral expense assistance; you have to initiate the call with them.

A few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Never provide personal or financial information over the phone;
  • Caller IDs can be easily spoofed; and
  • If the caller says it’s urgent, just slow down; and
  • If it’s a call you don’t expect, just hang up.

One more thing: If a caller starts with “Can you hear me?”, they just want you to say yes. They record this, and if questioned, they use the recording to say you agreed to what they were offering.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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