Scammers cheating COVID victims out of FEMA funeral funds
By Roz Brown
Texas News Service
AUSTIN, Texas — Many people are not aware the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a program to reimburse funeral expenses up to $9,000 dollars when someone dies of COVID-19.
Now, scammers are trying to take advantage of grieving families, checking obituaries and cold-calling relatives of people who died of COVID.
To prevent fraud, you have to apply over the phone, not online.
Veronica Verde, external affairs officer for FEMA Region 9, said applicants must prove that their loved one died after Jan. 20, 2020, with COVID-19 as the likely cause of death.
“You must provide a copy of the death certificate, proof of funeral expenses incurred, and proof of funeral assistance received from any other source,” Verde outlined.
Any monies you received, such as from a GoFundMe account, are deducted from the benefit amount. You will also have to provide a Social Security number and date of birth, for yourself and the person who died. More information is online, on FEMA’s COVID funeral assistance website. To apply, call 844-684-6333.
According to FEMA, scammers have been calling families and offering to complete the registration process for them. If you are contacted out of the blue, Verde advised hanging up, and calling FEMA directly.
“FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance,” Verde explained. “FEMA is not going to ask you to pay anything to get this benefit. So please do not give out any information about yourself or your loved ones, to anyone who may contact you.”
You can report a scammer to FEMA or to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.