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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2024 > Obituary “pirates” target personal info on deceased relatives, survivors

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Obituary “pirates” target personal info on deceased relatives, survivors

After losing a loved one, it’s important to be cautious about the information included in the deceased person’s obituary. Details about the funeral home and even surviving family members can be useful to scammers – notably obituary “pirates” who use information posted online to steal identities or perpetuate scams.

Identity thieves target obituaries because the victims are either deceased and unable to monitor financial accounts and credit reports, or emotionally vulnerable and, as such, more susceptible to manipulation.

Here’s how scammers exploit obituary information:
  • Fake invoices: Scammers may use obituary details to send fraudulent invoices from funeral homes. If they know a funeral home's name from an obituary, their fake invoices appear more convincing – and you might be more inclined to pay an invoice that accurately names the funeral home and date of service.
  • Family member scams: Information about surviving relatives can also be exploited. If a grandfather passes away, for example, a scammer might contact the grandmother pretending to be a grandchild. Knowing the grandchild’s name from the obituary makes the scam seem more legitimate. A scammer might wait months or years to act on the information, as obituaries often are archived online for an extended time.
  • Targeting the bereaved: The mere fact that you’ve lost a loved one can make you a target. Scammers know you might be in a vulnerable state and potentially looking for companionship. For instance, those who have just lost a spouse may be more susceptible to romance scams, one in which the scammer pretends to have a romantic interest to steal money.
AARP notes the following red flags regarding obituary pirates:
  • You receive a call from a “government official,’ “debt collector” or “insurance broker” about outstanding taxes, unpaid bills or unfinished business supposedly left by a recently deceased loved one.
  • The caller pressures you to pay immediately and asks for payment by wire transfer, gift card or reloadable cash card.
  • After your loved one’s death, you receive illegitimate bills or notice credit-card activity for purchases you didn’t make.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.