ATLANTA — Families dealing with the death of a loved one are being targeted by thieves.
Those criminals are posing as funeral home employees and are hitting people when they are at their most vulnerable.
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 employee. They need a down payment,” Jacobson said. “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 Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray he had just made the arrangements with Dressler’s Funeral Home.
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The caller “Craig” even referenced the owner he’d talked to Eddie.
“He said all the right things,” Jacobson said.
“It looks real,” said David Kirkland with Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care. “And people, you know, I’ve even had the Family tell me they were so nice on the phone.”
Kirkland from Dressler’s said what you’ve probably already figured out -- that wasn’t them on the phone.
“It is heart-wrenching,” Kirkland said.
In recent months, crooks have been reaching out to families posing as funeral homes all across the country, moments after the obituaries go up online.
“I’m never like this. I’m so careful,” Jacobson said.
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But that day on the phone when who Jacobson thought was Dressler’s, asked for a $2,500 deposit by PayPal or Venmo, he paid. And not just once.
The caller kept claiming the payment wasn’t going through. So he kept paying. His son even Venmo’ed the money too.
“Had me do it three times total,” Jacobson said. “He just wouldn’t get off the phone. And that’s how I was looking at it. Just get done with him and move on and do what I need to be doing and get that payment, and I’ll be done with him.”
It turned out to be more than $9,000 gone -- stolen.
“Instead of planning my funeral speech, I’m busy calling Capital One,” Jacobson said.
Gray tried calling the number repeatedly, the same number that called Jacobson but never got an answer.
“What a business to intentionally try to take advantage of people at this time,” Jacobson said. “I don’t think it gets any worse.”
Federal regulators at the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about the scam, writing if there was a scammers hall of shame, this one would make the Top 10 Lis, and warned families to contact the funeral home directly.
“You have to put yourself in the place of these families, what they’re going through. They’re not thinking,” Jacobson said.
Dressler’s has now placed a big warning in bold at the top of its website warning about the scheme.
“I call Capital One. They said, because you initiate these payments, we can’t really reverse it,” Jacobson said. “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 $2500 payments remain unresolved.
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