Friday, 5 June 2015

Pre-Paid Funeral Plans: opportunity or scam?

Not for the first time, I sense the need to write about scams.

A few days ago, I was alerted to an incoming email on the subject of “Pre-Paid Funeral Plans for as little as £6 per week”. Well, not quite. The email title described the product in question as “Pre-Paid Fuineral Plans”. Moral of the story for scammers: learn how to spell and you might stand a chance of catching a few more innocent victims.

The glossy ad embedded within the email set out to promote the virtues of a pre-paid funeral, citing average costs here and now and concluding with high praise for the benefits of fixing the funeral cost at today’s prices, all wrapped up with “reassurance for your loved ones”. At the foot of the email, a copyright notice in the name of “Plan My Funeral” and the registered office details for “Plan My Funeral Limited” (co.reg. 9447388). Its website link led to a page with a call to action, “Invest in a pre-paid funeral plan today!”, and used dramatic large print for the rallying cry “Do something AMAZING for your family and loved ones TODAY!

Tasteful, eh? Inspired by the possibility of telling the company’s (unnamed) directors what I thought of their advertising, it took me around two minutes to find out their personal details on Companies House (which I will withhold) and to ascertain that the company was only formed in February 2015, a veritable corporate youth.

Hang on a minute. The APPLY NOW and PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES NOW tabs within the email evidently did not lead to Plan My Funeral Limited’s website. The destination link was a mystery web page belonging to “” – coincidentally the email address suffix for the sender. Nothing to do with funerals, if Google is to be believed – more like fishing for entrants for questionable online competitions. It probably spoke volumes that Google’s autocomplete came up with “scam” when the search terms went into the box. Second moral of the story for scammers: you’d better work harder on your disguises.

Back to prepaid funerals. The AMAZING act that will PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES is evidently all about making weekly payments to an intermediary. The deceased in waiting is invited to rest assured (not in peace, well not yet) that his payments will by necessary implication be forwarded at some stage to an undertaker, who will do the honours in due course. Hmm. What advantage flows to the individual contemplating the financial consequences of his inevitable demise by doing so this way, rather than tucking his weekly funeral instalments away in one of those boring old building societies where he can keep an eye on the fund at all times, safe in the knowledge that it has not been spirited away?

“Oh, but it’s for your peace of mind”, the prepaid funeral providers may respond, “you won’t be tempted to dip into it, your loved ones will be protected…” Well, here’s a thought. Just suppose that the funeral funds, which might not of course be needed for the sombre event for many years, were not in fact tucked away in a safe place awaiting the undertaker’s bill for services rendered to the grieving family. Who would have entered into the prepaid funeral contract with the intermediary, thereby becoming the only party truly entitled to sue for breach of contract? Yes, that’s right, the deceased. OK, there’s always scope to sue in the deceased’s name, but who would want to prolong their grief in circumstances where the funds had vanished? Especially if the intermediary had conveniently gone bust in the meantime?

So are prepaid funeral plans a thoughtful, golden opportunity for peace of mind, or a product that ought to be buried six feet under? Discuss.

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