Here are some questions and answers about cremation and funeral services:
How can I avoid being taken advantage of when choosing a cremation provider?
Mr. Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance recommends contacting several providers — in advance if possible, so you can consider the options without pressure. Ask for the location of the cremation center and request a visit.
Be aware, he said, that cremation sites in the United States are often not in the same location as the funeral home, and may not be designed for consumer tours. But if a provider refuses to offer even an address, he said, consider it a red flag: “That’s a deal breaker.”
There are “susceptible moments” when people are at higher risk of becoming a victim of fraud, a study by AARP found. Having a recent stressful life event — like the loss of a loved one — can increase that risk, said Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs at AARP.
“If your life situation already has you ‘under the ether,’” she said, then “it’s a good day for the criminal or the dishonest salesperson.”
Must funeral and cremation providers post their prices online?
The F.T.C.’s Funeral Rule predates the internet and doesn’t require online price disclosure, nor do most states. The F.T.C. has been reviewing the rule for possible updates, including changes to make it more relevant for the digital age. Public comments on the rule closed in June 2020, but the agency has not announced further steps.
Are funeral benefits for Covid-related deaths still available?
Yes. As part of the government’s pandemic relief effort, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying up to $9,000 in funeral expenses per Covid-related death for those that occurred after Jan. 20, 2020. As of early May, the agency says, it has paid $2.3 billion toward the funerals of more than 369,000 people who died from Covid-19. Applicants can call 844-684-6333. There is no application fee.
Last year, the government issued a warning about fraud related to the funeral benefits, noting that FEMA had reports of people receiving calls from strangers offering to help them “register” for benefits. “It’s unfortunate but you have to be on your guard,” Ms. Stokes said.
FEMA won’t contact anyone until the person has called and applied for help, the warning said: “Anyone who contacts you out of the blue and claims to be a federal employee or from FEMA is a scammer.” Don’t give personal information about yourself or the deceased person to unknown callers, the agency advised. You can file complaints at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.