Nessel warns of scam targeting families of COVID-19 victims

The U.S. Capitol is centered among the "Field of Flags" at night during the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washingtion, D.C. The Field of Flags represents the victims of COVID-19. (CBP via Flickr Public Domain)

By Laina G. Stebbins, Michigan Advance

Michiganders who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 should beware of scammers claiming to be from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Attorney General Dana Nessel warned Monday.

The new scam involves fraudsters reaching out to families of victims and offering to register them for funeral assistance funds. FEMA is currently running such a program, which offers financial help for funeral expenses paid since Jan. 20, 2020 for COVID-19 victims, but the agency does not contact people prior to them registering.

Those who come across the scam should hang up immediately and report the call to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

“I’ll say it again: bad actors will do whatever it takes to make a quick buck or steal your personal information and that includes taking advantage of your grief,” Nessel said. “FEMA will not contact you until you have called their agency or applied for assistance. Anyone who contacts you unsolicited and claims to be a government employee or from FEMA is a scammer.”

Nessel’s office has reissued a consumer alert on government imposter scams to warn Michiganders of the fraud.

FEMA will never contact individuals out of the blue, nor will the agency ask for payment in order to receive funeral assistance or request personal/financial information of the deceased or their loved ones.

In addition to reporting scams to the FEMA Helpline and the National Center for Fraud Hotline, consumer complaints can also be filed online on the Department of Attorney General’s website.

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