Defenders: A scam warning for widows

DETROIT – When Beverly Shanley's husband died, she was in no condition to fend off smooth-talking con artists. She said her immediate new responsibilities were overwhelming and often confusing.

"Of course you are in shock. That's why I think you have to be so extremely careful about what you do, what you say, who you talk to," Shanley said. "Instead of being two, you are now one. You have to take care of all these financial things, things that you didn't normally do."

Con artists are taking advantage of the just-widowed, targeting them with a scam about life insurance.

In the scam, someone calls the widow and tells her that the deceased had a $50,000 live insurance policy, but was behind on payments. The caller says that if the widow sends a few thousand dollars to bring the account current, the money will be released.

The truth is, it's all fake.

Attorney and Local 4 legal expert Neil Rockind called the scam the "lowest of the low."

"There is nothing lower than a person who is attempting to take advantage of a widow who has just gotten over, or is still, suffering from the loss of someone he or she spent their life with," Rockind said.

Rockind said con artists scour obituaries looking for information that they can use to pretend that they had a relationship with the deceased.

"There's all these websites that have detailed information about individuals' lives, and you can come up with a pretty good cover story in a relatively short period of time. The people who are con artists, they know how to fill in the blanks," Rockind said.

Con artists sometimes look up obituaries that are a decade old, then call survivors to tell them that they have unclaimed property in the deceased's name that they will help recover for a fee.

"There's an emotional heartstring that's tugged on and a financial string that is tugged on," Rockind said.

Shanley said the scams may look obvious to some, but in the middle of a grief-stricken fog, they often work.

"I got all kinds of phone calls after he died, just different crazy things, of course life insurance things, health insurance and different things, mortgage things and things like that. But I just turned it over to my son. He advised me," Shanley said.

The best thing that consumers can do to prevent making any unwise decisions in times of trouble is to have an exact plan for material and financial properties before a loved one dies.

More resources: