OFDA Members Report Telephone Scams
By T. Scott Gilligan, OFDA General Counsel
In the past five days, we have received two reports from funeral homes in Northeast Ohio that have received telephone messages seeking price information that were purportedly from England and were relayed through a Tele Typewriter (“TTY”). A TTY is a device that uses text instead of voice to communicate via telephone lines. A TTY enables people who are hearing impaired to use the TTY to send a text message to a relay center operator who then telephones the recipient and relays the message.
Overseas scammers often use a TTY phone service system to mask their poor grasp of English. A telephone call being relayed by the TTY system is a huge red flag. It is strongly recommended that funeral homes not respond to calls being relayed by a TTY system that originates from overseas.
OFDA members should share with their staff the Scam Prevention List for Funeral Homes printed below. OFDA members that have been a target of this scam or have questions regarding this matter may contact Scott Gilligan at 513-871-6332.
SCAM PREVENTION LIST
FOR FUNERAL HOMES
- Precautions to Avoid Merchandise Fraud
1. Never ship merchandise until the funeral home verifies that a check has cleared and funds are in the account.
2. Simply because a charge goes through on a credit card does not mean that it is legitimate. The credit card may have been stolen and a chargeback will be eventually made against the funeral home when the theft is discovered. Funeral homes should be very careful about accepting credit card payments when the contract is initiated by the consumer and the credit card number is given via e-mail, fax or telephone.
3. Never wire funds to a consumer, especially overseas. Also, do not provide account information to an overseas consumer who needs to deposit funds into your account.
4. Be suspicious whenever the purchase order is for several of the same items of merchandise, like cremation jewelry.
5. Whenever a funeral home is required to ship to an international address, it should be suspicious. Many scams are initiated overseas.
6. VISA advises that merchants should be careful when shipping to a single address when the transaction is placed on multiple cards.
7. Another sign of a possible scam is orders from addresses that use free e-mail services. VISA reports that these e-mail services have no billing relationship with the consumer, making them very difficult to trace.
- Guidelines to Avoid Telephone Scams
1. Funeral homes should not accept collect calls from shoppers.
2. Funeral homes should never return calls or send faxes to telephone numbers in the “284,” “809,” or “876” area codes. These area codes cover Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the British Virgin Islands which are all home to numerous telephone scammers. Once a call is made to the scam artist, the call is switched over to a pay-per-call line similar to a 900 number.
3. If a call is received through a TTY operator for the hearing impaired, be alert to a possible scam. Never ship merchandise, wire money, or return the phone call to a foreign phone number in response to a TTY call.
4. Be weary if the caller claims to be a telephone company employee or a government investigator checking on possible technical problems with your telephone. Do not comply with requests to dial certain numbers in order to “check” on technical problems. Instead, ask the caller for their name and telephone number and then call the telephone company immediately to determine whether there is a problem with the funeral home’s telephone service. Do not dial any numbers or transfer the call to an outside line.
5. If you receive any call or e-mail offering prizes, be wary. It is generally a very bad idea to respond to these cons.
6. A popular e-mail scam that made the rounds in the past few years is a “plea” from a friend or family member who has lost their wallet/passport in a foreign country or who has been arrested and is in desperate need of funds. Do not respond or wire money. Contact the friend or family member by phone and tell them that their e-mail has been hacked.
7. Do not purchase any item over the phone from an unfamiliar company. Always request more information in writing and delay your purchase until you have received it and had the opportunity to review it.
8. Never respond or send money to a charity on the basis of a phone call. Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
9. If a funeral home is stung by a telephone scam, immediately alert your telephone carrier as soon as you receive the bill containing the charge. Inform the telephone company that you are contesting the charge because it is part of a fraudulent scheme. Most telephone carriers will delete the charge on that basis. If the telephone carrier refuses to delete the charge, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission at www.fcc.gov/complaints.