Ashes To Ashes – How to Avoid Cremation Scams

How to Evaluate Cremation Services And Avoid Problems: Internet ScamBusters #247

ScamBusters #243 was a special issue on href="">funeral
scams, and
frankly we were very surprised at how popular it was. (We had
thought subscribers might shy away from this topic, but we
were wrong.)

We got a lot of positive feedback — and a lot of questions.
Most of the questions related to cremation. So today, we’re
doing a follow-up issue on cremation scams — and what to
watch out for. We interviewed a funeral industry leader and
pulled together the best info to answer your questions.

Again, we suggest you read through this issue now and then
remember to look at it again if you ever need to plan a
funeral that involves cremation
, or help someone else who is
making these decisions. This can really make a big difference,
especially at a very difficult time.

First, though, we recommend you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:

Things You Need to Know About Disputing a Credit Card Error: href=""
target="_blank">Credit card error disputes are a fact of life but
can be easier to manage with these tips.

Helpful Tip Tips So You’ll Never Look Like a Bad Tipper: Use this
advice to save yourself the embarrassment of being labeled a href=""
target="_blank">bad tipper without being taken to the bank.

The Smell of Spam in the Morning: You may not end all spam in your
inbox but you can href=""
target="_blank">reduce your spam email with these tried and true

Your Home Is Not an Identity Theft Sanctuary: Reduce your risk of href=""
target="_blank">identity theft in your home by being aware of
these ideas.

On to today’s main topic…

Ashes To Ashes – How to Avoid Cremation Scams

Fortunately, there are fewer cremation scams than other
funeral scams, but there are certainly important things to
watch out for.

You will definitely want to check out a crematory’s practices
for diligence and fairness.

Proper handling of a loved one’s remains and fair pricing are
concerns best addressed before the emotional days after a
loved one has passed away.

Though this certainly is a sad time, many people feel there’s
something comforting about the idea of cremation. There is a
serenity of ashes scattered out to sea or at a favorite place
of a loved one.

There are also many options. Cremains have been worked with
paint to create a memorial painting; attached to a concrete
structure that, when dropped to the bottom of the ocean,
becomes a “living” reef, and processed into carbon pendants
that are worn by the bereaved.

“As people are becoming more educated about funerals they
realize cremations give them more options,” said Mike
Nicodemus, board member of the Cremation Association of North

The national cremation rate stands at 28 percent and is on the
rise. When Nicodemus first directed funerals in 1979, about 5
percent of his clients opted for cremation. Now that number
has risen to 43 percent.

However to avoid problems, you should definitely plan ahead so
your last memory of a loved one doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Who’s Really in That Urn?

Properly identifying remains is one of the biggest issues in
the cremation industry today. Nicodemus says there
“absolutely” have been cases where a family was delivered
ashes not belonging to their loved one.

“There was one story of a person who was cremated in Florida
who was scattered in their three favorite places,” said
Nicodemus. “When the family got to the third and final
location, a vacation spot in Maine, they found a set of
dentures at the bottom of the ashes. Only the deceased had
never worn dentures.”

In a second case, a family scattered remains in several
far-flung locations, only to discover afterwards the ID tag on
the container didn’t match the paperwork from the funeral

Obviously, these cases are rare. However, for this reason,
it’s important to ask a crematory what procedures they use to
track the body through the cremation process and to verify the
identity of the remains following cremation.

A crematory can have a family member or friend visually
identify a loved one before cremation in states where this is
allowed. Otherwise, the funeral director should have a
diligent tagging system.

“It can be a big problem because certain states will not let
the funeral director open the container the body has been
placed in,” Nicodemus said. This is especially a concern when
funeral homes contract a removal service to retrieve the body
from the hospital.

Also, a good funeral director should allow you to tour their
facility, present their license and be able to show that their
operators are certified. Make sure what you see leaves you
with peace of mind.

Here are some other cremation questions you may want to ask:

  1. Can the cremation be witnessed by a family member or
    designated individual?

  2. What is the average time between receiving the deceased and
    the completion of the cremation?

  3. Do they have refrigeration facilities for use prior to

  4. How are the cremated remains returned if an urn is not
    provided prior to cremation? What is the policy regarding
    holding of the cremated remains after the cremation is

From the target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Cremation Association of North America.

How High a Price for Ashes?

The high expense of traditional funerals is another reason why
cremations have become more popular. But cremation itself is
no guarantee of a good value in a funeral.

Make sure you understand your options and don’t get roped into
services you don’t really want or need.

You may wish to forgo one or all of the following in a
cremation: the casket, the viewing, the visitation and the
funeral service. Called “direct cremation,” this option can
cost consumers $1000 or less.

target="_blank" rel="nofollow">The Funeral Rule, a federal law that protects
consumers from
unfair funeral practices, says:

  • The funeral director should not charge you for embalming
    services with direct cremation because there will not be a

  • There is no state that has a law requiring the purchase of a
    casket with a cremation (in spite of what funeral directors
    may tell you).

  • You have the right to purchase an unfinished wood box to be
    used prior to cremation.

Finally, it is not necessary to purchase an expensive urn for
remains. Crematories may place remains in a metal, plastic or
cardboard container adequate for burying or transporting.

However, if you choose direct cremation, you definitely may
still wish to hold a memorial service run by the family. Talk
with your loved ones ahead of time. If planning your own
funeral, don’t just go with the cheapest option — this can
really be a disservice.

So as you can see, there definitely are important questions
and facts to be aware of when deciding on a cremation. We
hope these tips will help during a very difficult time.

Time to close — and we’re off to take a walk. See you next