Buyer beware; veteran casket scamArea News
-- An organization calling itself, U.S. Patriot Services has been targeting local elderly veterans.
By: Jillian Dexheimer, Pierce County Herald
An organization calling itself, U.S. Patriot Services has been targeting local elderly veterans. They are going door-to-door, claiming to be selling caskets and funeral urns at a lower cost than local funeral homes.
According to Scott Hill, owner of Cashman-Hill Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc., “The price is exorbitantly higher than ours.”
Hill also had an issue with U.S. Patriot Services claim that they purchase the caskets and store them for you. “When you buy a casket the money received goes into a trust since a casket diminishes over time,” he said.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota’s (BBB) press release states that, U.S. Patriot Services, lists addresses in Kansas City, Mo. and Rossmoor, Calif., and claims they are “Veterans Serving Veterans.”
The company offers interment in national cemeteries free of charge as part of their sales package. However, all U.S. veterans who are honorably discharged from the military are eligible for free internment in national cemeteries, meaning this is not a benefit U.S. Patriot Services or any company can offer.
Hill thinks the confusion for consumers comes when they try to sell the burial service at a national cemetery.
Another sales pitch used, according to Hill is, “They led people to believe that it included things such as funeral home services. If you look closely at the contract, it does not include these.”
A BBB report indicates that U.S. Patriot Services may have attempted to charge a veteran more than double for funeral urns. The veteran was able to get the company to refund his money after being made aware he'd been overcharged.
According to a BBB press release, “U.S. Patriot Services’ general manager Shawna Estrada, has been linked to other funeral supply companies, including a company called American Veteran KCA. In 2010, that company reached a settlement agreement with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. As part of the settlement with the attorney general, all customers of that company received a letter stating the company was not affiliated with the VA, nor any National Cemetery or governmental agency. All customers who had purchased caskets from the company were entitled to a full refund as part of the settlement. The company also had to pay a $20,000 fine.”
The BBB offers the following tips to families and individuals looking to make funeral arrangements:
-- Be an informed consumer. Shop around before making a purchase and ask for multiple quotes.
-- Check out the funeral service. Contact the BBB for a report on the funeral home. Check whether the funeral services director or embalmer is licensed.
-- Be wary of outrageous claims. Sellers who claim to have a product or service that will preserve human remains over the long-term are misleading. Also, a casket is not legally required for a direct cremation.
-- Research funeral home service fees when shopping for products elsewhere. The Federal Trade Commission’s web site at www.ftc.gov has information on charges that are prohibitive.
-- Embalming is not always required. You are not required to have embalming if you choose direct cremation or immediate burial.
-- Resist high-priced sales pitches from funeral industry vendors. They should treat you with compassion; not pressure you.
-- Consult a friend or family member. It might be a good idea to take along a friend or relative when you visit the funeral home or talk to a funeral service representative.
-- Get everything in writing. Compare the posted prices and any oral promises with those listed in the contract. The contract should itemize all prices and specify any future costs. Check the contract for any restrictions.
-- Carefully read contracts and purchasing agreements before signing. Ask if the agreements you sign can be voided, taken back or transferred to other funeral homes.
-- Remember, prepaying for a funeral has advantages, as well as risks.If you choose to prepay, make a well-informed decision, carefully research your options and know your rights. You can always make plans in advance, without prepaying. Be sure to share your specific wishes with those close to you.