published Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Phillips: Fraud creeps into plot where burial was to be


by Ellen Phillips

My friends at the FBI’s white-collar fraud division have done it again.

While readers may remember an almost 3-year-old column concerning suspicious funeral homes and one last year about insurance policy protection, recent headlines assure a current column about what the FBI calls “fake funerals, empty caskets.”

We heard about the cremation atrocities in which a crematory operator dumped 336 bodies on his rural North Georgia property and left them rotting in the nearby woods and in sheds instead of cremating them. Then, to add insult to injury, he sent cement dust to the funeral homes and families of the deceased instead of their ashes.

The newest report centers around a financial fraud scheme. The scammers took out insurance policies for fake insureds, faked their deaths and even purchased burial plots to “bury” the so-called dead at fake funerals attended by fake friends and family.

So what do we do to protect ourselves against insurance fraud? For starters:

* Before doing a single thing, check the agent and the company’s license with your state insurance agency (in Tennessee go to www.state.tn.us/commerce). Before buying any kind, be sure to carefully read the policy (yes, even the fine print) to be certain you’re paying only for the coverage you want.

* If the price seems too low for the coverage, it’s probably like the adage: If something’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Also beware of any insurance sold door to door or by phone. Remember those nasty scammers lurking around to clean your pockets.

* Never write your premium check to the individual agent but always to the company. In addition, write your policy number in the “For” column.

* Forever after, when you receive any correspondence from the company, don’t ditch the letter. It could be important information about your policy, including its potential lapse.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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