In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in partnership with the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association (MFDA), is asking residents of the Commonwealth to be aware of potential scams and other attempts to exploit families seeking relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Funeral Reimbursement Program, which began April 12.
Massachusetts residents are reminded not to give out personal information, especially financial information, over the phone or by email.
“Unfortunately, scammers often target people when they’re at their most vulnerable and use it as an opportunity to take advantage of them to make money,” Healey said. “This fund was set up to offer financial relief for those who tragically and unexpectedly lost someone to COVID-19, and we want to make sure applicants are on alert for scams and don’t get exploited.”
“Losing someone to COVID-19 has been devastating enough for so many families across the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association President Clarence R. Lyons Jr. of Danvers. “They don’t need the added grief of being taken advantage at a time when they’re already going through so much. Funeral directors are available to support families in the process by providing information needed for application and making sure their personal information stays safe in doing so.”
Under FEMA’s Funeral Reimbursement Program, individuals who incurred funeral/burial and related expenses due to the death of a loved one from COVID-19 are eligible to apply for up to $9,000 in reimbursement from FEMA to help ease some of the unexpected financial costs and stress caused by the pandemic.
The program applies to deaths from Jan. 20, 2020 through the present.
FEMA has issued a “Fraud Alert” notice announcing that scammers have been reaching out to people who suffered a loss during the pandemic and offering to register them for funeral assistance. There are many resources for consumers who need assistance to receive information and support for free to help them with applying for this benefit, including through FEMA, which is offering free assistance to anyone who wants to apply for funding. Consumers can also contact their funeral director directly with questions.
It is important to note that:
- FEMA will not initiate contact with anyone by phone or email.
- Only the person who incurred the funeral expenses may apply for the funds and must initiate the application by phone.
- FEMA has not authorized any companies to complete applications on behalf of the bereaved; similarly, funeral directors cannot apply on behalf of a client.
Consumers who receive unsolicited telephone calls, emails or text messages seeking personal information from anyone claiming to be a federal employee, from FEMA or a funeral home should hang up and report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362; the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721; or local law enforcement. FEMA will not contact anyone unless that person has called first or has applied for assistance after April 12.
More information about FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program can be found at https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
Applications for the reimbursement must be started by phone. Eligible applicants may call 844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.