MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FEMA will soon accept funeral assistance applications to help families whose loved ones died from COVID-19, but it’s also issuing a warning to watch out for frauds.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been lost to COVID-19, and families around the country now dealing with the pain.
That includes Corey Warren’s family, here in the Mid-South. He died from coronavirus complications earlier this year.
“He was like our hero of the family. As far as us missing him, it’s just so hard,” said his wife, Corshundra Warren.
FEMA now hopes to help families like his by providing funeral assistance money, easing the stress and financial burden that comes with funeral-related expenses.
But the potential help is coming with a word of caution.
“Scams have evolved since day one of the pandemic. Phony PPE websites, phony government grants,” said Randy Hutchinson, President of Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.
That now includes phony funeral assistance.
“As soon as I saw this announcement that FEMA was going to start paying some funeral expenses, my reaction was, ‘Get ready for the scams,’” Hutchinson said.
FEMA isn’t accepting applications for the program until next week, but when you go to the website, the fraud alert is at the top of the page.
FEMA says they’ve received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance. FEMA says no one from their agency will contact you until you’ve applied for assistance or contacted FEMA first.
The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South says it’s received 155 COVID-19 related scam reports since the start of the pandemic, with losses totaling more than $5,500. Fifty-eight of those reports were filed this year.
“Folks just need to realize that no government agency is going to be reaching out to you on an unsolicited basis for any reason. Asking for bank account information, credit card information, social security information,” Hutchinson said.