BBB warns of scammers targeting grieving families of COVID-19 victims


CLEVELAND (WJW)– Here’s a warning about a scam targeting local families who have lost someone to COVID-19.

The Better Business Bureau said scam artists are going after grieving families in order to steal funeral expenses.

For Canon and Catavolos Funeral Home owner George Catavolos, the idea that scam artists are going after grieving families of COVID-10 victims is unimaginable.

“I’m shocked. It’s something you don’t think would happen,” Catavolos said.

But is is happening, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“This new scam is surrounding a recent benefit that FEMA is offering to families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19,” said Sue McConnell, with the BBB Serving Greater Cleveland.

FEMA has a government relief program that reimburses up to $9,000 for funeral expenses. McConnell said scammers are contacting families by email, text, and phone and pretending to register them for the federal assistance. Then, they attempt to get banking account numbers and personal identification information.

“FEMA is not going to reach out to you to let you know about the benefits,” McConnell said.

So, how are scammers finding these families? The BBB said scam artists are actively searching social media sites for personal posts about loved ones that have passed away. 

Meantime, Catavolos said his funeral home is doing extra to help protect vulnerable families.

“We’ve been walking our families directly through the FEMA reimbursement program. So if there are questions, we directly reach out to them and eliminate the scammers taking advantage of them. It’s terrible,” Catavolos said.

Anyone who receives a suspicious call should report it immediately to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.

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