Scammers targeting COVID victims through FEMA’s Funeral Assistance Program

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a launch for its Funeral Assistance Program, offering financial aid to cover funeral costs for those who lost loved ones to the pandemic. Now scammers may be trying to get those benefits for themselves.

Linda Pym lost her husband in October to COVID-19.

“It was certainly a loss for me financially, and if FEMA would pay anything back that would be great,” Pym said.

So she reached out to FEMA to see if she qualified for their funeral assistance financial aid.

“After waiting for a few minutes, they came on and said if you would like for us to hold you place in line and call you back, we’ll be glad to do that,” Pym said.

She said sometime after that call, she received a call from a number that her phone flagged as potential spam, so she called FEMA back. They told her the same thing, to wait in line and they’d call her back. Shortly after, she got another call.

“And again it came up ‘spam risk,'” Pym said. “And it was a 775 number that didn’t even look like an area code to me. But by this time, somebody else had already spoken, so I thought well I’ll just see… There was a lady on the line.”

That’s when Pym said the woman on the phone asked her why she was calling, which Pym said was the first red flag.

“And I said do you need to ask me some questions?” Pym said. “And she said ‘yes, let’s start with your social security number.’ And of course, the next thing was me going click.”

Pym said she hung up the phone, furious.

“To think that she didn’t ask what my name was, what my husband’s name was, who was the member of my family that died,” Pym said. “Anything.”

And now she wants to warn others about the risk.

7 News reached out to FEMA to find out what information an agent will need from you.

We learned, there are specific questions agents will ask when making outbound calls, and that you’re only contacted if funeral information is missing. Your agent should also provide you with their name and their FEMA ID number.

An agent should also note the call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes, and verify with you some information from the application to assure their speaking with the right person.

“I was thinking of all of the people who had dealt with the death of a loved one, thinking they’re giving information to the right people and maybe were not,” Pym said.

Because while Pym says she dodged the bullet, she doesn’t want anyone else getting scammed.

If you would like to apply to FEMA’s Funeral Assistance Program, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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