Scammers targeting new FEMA funeral assistance program

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 8:05 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Scammers are focusing on a new federal program aimed at helping to pay for COVID-19 funeral costs.

The fraudsters are calling to offer help to for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Funeral Assistance Program.

FEMA said they will not contact anyone until the person has called them directly or applied for the help.

The assistance program started this week and is paying up to $9,000 in funeral assistance for people who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19.

Renee Wikstrom with the Better Business Bureau said scammers were ready to steal from people before the program even became effective.

”When you’ve lost a love one, you aren’t always thinking straight. So if someone calls you and says ‘hey this new government program, we will register you for it just need certain information’ it’s very easy to fall pray to that,’” Wikstrom said.

To apply for FEMA’s Funeral Assistance Program, call 844-684-6333. FEMA isn’t accepting online applications and there is no deadline.

Right now, FEMA is experiencing high call volumes for the help, so they’re asking to try again if you can’t reach anyone.

If you aren’t careful, Wikstrom said the scammer can not only get your personal information, but your loved ones too.

She added the estate might still be opened, but even if it’s closed, the scammer can take your loved ones information to get new credit cards and even more.

”I can’t say it enough. If you wouldn’t walk down the street and stop somebody you don’t know on the sidewalk and give them your banking information and social security, don’t do it to someone you don’t know on the phone asking for it,” she said.

Just like the program, the scam is in its early stages too.

Wikstrom said scammers will soon use websites, social media and texts to start offering to register you.

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