Beware: Funeral assistance scams similar to coronavirus stimulus check scams

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Yesterday we talked about how you can apply for up to $9,000 in funeral expenses reimbursement if you lost a loved one due to COVID-19. One more thing that you need to know and be aware of is that just like the coronavirus stimulus check scams, fraudsters are targeting this funeral assistance program as well.

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Coronavirus stimulus check scams similar to funeral assistance scams

The COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program opened for applicants last week, and it is being managed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). However, due to high volume, people are facing issues in applying for reimbursement, and fraudsters are taking advantage of this.

Fraudsters are contacting potential applicants by impersonating as government agents. They then offer assistance in applying for the program. In return, these scammers may ask for payment information, or your sensitive personal or financial information, such as your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.

FEMA is aware of such scams, and has already issued a warning.

“We have received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance,” the agency said in a press release.

FEMA, in its fraud alert, has asked people not to share their personal or financial details with anyone who calls them for assistance on funeral expenses. The agency says it won’t contact anyone unless they have already applied for funeral assistance.

“FEMA has not sent any such notifications and we do not contact people before they register for assistance,” it says.

Further, the agency says there are no fees to register for the program, nor are there ways to expedite the application process. So, anyone asking for a payment to register or speed up registration for the program is a fraudster.

How and where to report

FEMA has asked people to report any suspicious or fraudulent calls to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. People can also report fraudulent calls at the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866-720-5721), or contact local police.

Moreover, the agency is also asking people to be patient if they are unable to get through when they call. FEMA says that because of high call volume, it is experiencing some technical issues, and it is working to resolve them. Currently, there is no deadline to apply for the program.

“We ask that applicants be patient as we work to correct these issues and have all their important documents ready when they call,” FEMA said.

FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program is offering reimbursement of up to $9,000 per funeral and up to $35,500 per applicant. It is only reimbursing for coronavirus-related deaths after Jan. 20, 2020. As per the data from Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 has killed over 565,000 Americans.

One can register for the assistance only via phone. FEMA says it opted for phone rather than online to add a human element to this emotional process.