by Sheryl Reichert

Sheryl Reichert, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Sheryl Reichert, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

It can be one of the worst times in life. When a spouse dies, it’s stressful and life can be overwhelming for the survivors. There’s so much to think about and adjust to. Grief can easily cloud your thinking.

After dealing with immediate details, such as obtaining copies of the death certificate and locating financial and legal documents, it’s best not to rush into any big financial decisions. Take it slow and give yourself time. Details can be confusing and time-consuming, but you don’t have to do it all at once.

Get organized and start with an overview of what you own and what you owe. Update information on personal accounts and property. You may need to contact your banks and credit card companies to change joint loans, accounts and credit cards to your name only. You should also review and update beneficiary designations on your own retirement accounts and insurance policies.

Unfortunately, here is a note of caution: Watch out for scams. Grief can cause you to be at a vulnerable state. It may be hard to believe, but, yes, there are unscrupulous lowlifes out there who won’t think twice about taking advantage of someone who is in mourning. Here are a couple of grief-related scams to watch out for:

— Fake debts. Scammers will read obituaries in the newspaper and contact family members claiming that they are owed money from the deceased. Before you pay, ask questions to verify the debt. Ask the person claiming the debt to provide documentation to substantiate the debt. Don’t fall for it.

— Fake funeral e-mails. The e-mail subject line may say “Funeral Notification,” but the scammer is really trying to steal personal information from your computer. The message may appear to be from a funeral home in your area, but it could actually be from anyone. The e-mail may even look like an invite to an upcoming “celebration of your friend’s life.”

If you click to view the invite, instead of linking you to the invitation, you may be sent to a scam site where con-men are ready to place malware that download into your computer that allows access to your personal financial information.

To avoid this scam, don’t believe what you see. Pick up the phone and confirm the details with the mortuary. Never open a link in an e-mail from somebody you do not know. In addition, watch for poor grammar and spelling. Scam e-mails often are riddled with typos. Also, ignore calls for immediate action. Scam e-mails will try to get you to act before you think by creating a false sense of urgency.

The BBB offers free educational information on how to be aware, informed and proactive so people can protect themselves against frauds and scams. For additional consumer protection information, visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB by phoning (858) 637-6199.

Sheryl Reichert
Sheryl Reichert