Life after the death of a loved one can understandably lead to a distracted state of mind. Unfortunately, distraction and vulnerability — two normal side effects of grieving — can make surviving family members targets for scam artists. Protect your family, your identity, your finances and yourself from scam artists as you go through your grief journey. Keep your family from being victimized by these common scams that target survivors:
- Funeral and cemetery scams — The military services cover most, if not all, funeral costs for active-duty service members, including military funeral honors and a burial flag. Ask questions before agreeing to any added expenses that could be scams. Talk with your casualty assistance officer or mortuary officer about funeral and burial options, and about government entitlements and reimbursements.
- Unnecessary charges — Beyond your loved one's funeral and burial, scammers count on you not knowing what's provided to you for free. Do your research or talk with your casualty assistance officer or mortuary officer before paying for anything out of your own pocket.
- Phony charities — You may want to make a donation in your deceased service member's name or support a cause that gives back to other military families. Generally, you may want to be suspicious of any charity donation requests that you don't initiate.
- Financial schemes — Processing finances after your loved one's death and funeral may seem like an overwhelming task. You might have questions about your survivor benefits, how they'll change over time and how you'll need to adjust your financial planning. Avoid financial scams by reading the Department of Defense's "A Survivor's Guide to Benefits" and access your Online Survivors Benefit Report which can help you understand how your finances will change going forward. Financial counselors can guide you to sound investment opportunities.
- Investment schemes — Financial uncertainty can be scary, but take a breath before rushing into an investment. Watch out for organizations that approach you and ask you to invest. Do your research before investing with any company, and check their Better Business Bureau affiliation.
- Moving-related scams — Beware of rental and moving scams if you decide to relocate after your service member's death. In general, be suspicious if the property is much less expensive than a similar one, no one will show the property, you aren't asked for references, you're asked for a deposit before seeing the property or you're asked to wire money for any expense.
- Dating scams — If and when you begin to open your heart again, be sure to protect your finances. Look for red flags early in relationships that might warn of a scam, like asking you for a large loan, encouraging you to open joint accounts, asking you to cover bills or expenses other than your own, or questions about your financial state before you're ready to discuss it.
Take your time making decisions, and don't be afraid to ask questions to ease your mind. Don't let scammers take advantage of you - ask for second opinions from loved ones and trusted professionals, especially when you feel most vulnerable. Support is available to you each step of the way from Military OneSource financial counselors and installation resources, like chaplains, casualty assistance officers or personal financial managers.