Funeral home scheme targets families at their most vulnerable times

ATLANTA — Thieves, posing as funeral home employees, are targeting families dealing with the death of loved ones.

Scott Jacobson was busy on his phone at the time. Calling relatives and friends about the death of his mother Eleanor the night before.

“So, my wife hands me the phone and says, ‘There’s this guy from Dressler Funeral Home, (an employee). They need a down payment,’” said Scott Jacobson.

Jacobson was calling relatives and friends about his mother, Eleanor, who died the night before.

“He said, ‘Well, we just need a small down payment. We don’t need the whole thing,’ just to get, you know, just to get the paperwork started,” Jacobson told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Jacobson had just made the arrangements with Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care in Atlanta.

“(The scammer) said all the right things,” Jacobson said.

“It looks real and people, you know?” said David Kirkland, from Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care. “I’ve even had the family tell me (the scammers) were so nice on the phone.”

In recent months, Crooks have been reaching out to families, posing as funeral homes across the country moments after the obituaries are published online.

“I’m never like this,” Jacobson said. “I’m so careful.”

The criminal asked for $2,500 to be deposited via PayPal or Venmo.

Jacobson paid more than once because the caller claimed the payment was not going through.

His son sent them money too.

“Had me do it three times total,” Jacobson said. “He just wouldn’t get off the phone.”

Jacobson just wanted to get him the payment.

“And I’ll be done with him,” Jacobson said.

The scammer stole $9,000 from the Jacobsons.

“Instead of planning my funeral speech, I’m busy calling Capital One,” Jacobson said. “I call Capital One. They said, ‘Because you initiate these payments, we can’t really reverse it.’”

Federal regulators at the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about the scam: “If there was a Scammers Hall of Shame, this one would make the Top 10 list.”

Officials said to contact the funeral home directly.

“You have to put yourself in the place of these families,” Jacobson said. “What they’re going through. They’re not thinking.”

He added, “It’s like you’re taking everything away from that person the same day, all at once.”

PayPal did reimburse one of the three transactions because it was done as a payment to a business.

Venmo also reimbursed a payment after being contacted by Gray.

Two $2,500 payments remain unresolved.

WSB-TV contributed to this article.