Sadly bereaved families face being caught out by a new scam, where criminal gangs steal the identities of legitimate firms and demand money from people who have died. Fraudsters are sending letters to grieving family members as they tie up loose ends such as paying outstanding bills, dividing up possessions and signing official paperwork, lawyers have warned.

The letters typically request the payments of relatively small amounts of several hundreds of pounds so the demands seem more reasonable and have more chance of duping unsuspecting victims.

In order to protect yourself, you can:

  • Look up the name of the firm using a search engine – rather than just relying upon numbers on the headed paper.
  • Sometimes if the firms name has been used to defraud people you can find that other people have reported scams.
  • Speak to the firm (on the number obtained from internet) and ask why the invoice is due and can they provide evidence of the goods/service provided?
  • Does the goods or service fit with your knowledge of the deceased person?
  • How are you being asked to pay the invoice? Credit or debit card transactions can offer you more protection rather than making a bank transfer.

If in doubt consider approaching Trading Standards or Citizens Advice for further guidance.