Funeral prepayment schemes are common, with people prearranging their funerals by prepaying some of the related expenses. Unfortunately though, anonymous scammers can exploit people’s decision to opt for one of these schemes.
“My mother had given me a card with some information on it saying that she had paid for a funeral plan,” Marie said.
“When she gave this to me at the time, because it was a plastic credit card that looked legit, I just stuffed it in a tin in the cupboard.”
Both Marie and her mother believed that the card, inscribed with the words
‘Funeral Trust Membership Card’, meant that the funeral had already been paid for.
They believed this because it contained a seemingly legitimate reference number.
It also included two telephone numbers that Marie did not initially call.
One of the telephone numbers was falsely labelled as a bereavement line.
The day after her mother passed away, Marie began preparations.
One of her first steps was ringing the telephone numbers on the card that she was given by the fraudsters.
After ringing both numbers, Marie realised that they did not exist and that her late mother had, in fact, been scammed out of £4,000.
“When you Google that company, there’s quite a lot of information [that appears in the search results] and I think there’s a lot more people paid a lot more money to them and have obviously never got their money back,” added Marie.
Her mother had left her a note saying that in October 2014, she had paid £2,000 for her funeral plan and was expecting to pay the remaining £2,000 the following year.
“It’s sad because in theory, she paid for the funeral twice,” Marie said, as money left by her late mother then had to be used to cover the cost.
James Daley, the Managing Director of Fairer Finance started a campaign in 2014 to combat such fraudulent schemes by protecting people who are seeking funeral plans.
“Back at the turn of the millennium, about 50,000 [funeral] plans were being bought, whereas now it’s closer to 200,000. The market hasn’t been regulated.”
“It’s been easy for anyone to set up and start selling [funeral] plans,” said Mr Daley.
“We’ve started to see pockets of bad practice, even fraudulent activity. There’s a lack of security for the money people are handing over”.
“The good news is that the market is going to be regulated from the summer of 2022. If you are buying a plan today, be careful and buy it from a reputable buyer,” he concluded.
Some experts argue that the pre-paid funeral plan market lacks regulation, leading to an eruption of fraudulent websites.
A pre-paid funeral plan allows people to cover their funeral costs prior to their death.
The pre-paid funeral plan market in the UK has grown substantially in the last 10-15 years.
It was reported to be worth £3.3billion in 2019.
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