Ads misleadingly claim to offer thousands in funeral benefits

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Posts advertising government-sponsored "funeral benefits" have gained thousands of views on Facebook. But the ads are misleading; they promote private services that have no affiliation with state or federal programs, and experts say filling out such surveys could lead to scams or unwanted telemarketing.

"If you were born prior to 1972, we can help you qualify for this AFFORDABLE, State Regulated Burial Program that is designed to cover the ENTIRE cost of your final expenses up to $25,000," says a December 5, 2022 Facebook post.

The post, which claims the offer applies to "every senior" in Michigan, accumulated more than 200,000 views. Several identical messages focus on different states, including Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and South Carolina, while others tout a non-existent "Social Security Burial Program."

A more recent post from January 12, 2023 prompts social media users to check in "60 seconds" their eligibility to receive $40,000 for funeral-related expenses. The link leads to a brief survey.

Screenshot of a Facebook ad taken January 19, 2023
Screenshot of a Facebook ad taken January 19, 2023

 

 

But the posts are misleading -- they are part of a series of Facebook ads that link to websites not affiliated with any state or federal assistance programs.

"Senior Choice Financial is not licensed as an insurance company or agency in the state of Michigan," said Laura Hall, director of communications at the state's Department of Insurance and Financial Services, of the Facebook page behind the December 5 post.

AFP has previously fact-checked posts that advertise free dental care and Medicare "flex cards" for groceries. Some of the offers come from companies marketing private insurance plans.

Experts advised caution when interacting with ads promising thousands of dollars in funeral benefits.

"While there always is a chance that amazing offers like this are legitimate, there's also the chance that they may be too good to be true," said Jessica Koth, director of public relations at the National Funeral Directors Association, in an email.

Koth emphasized the importance of planning in advance for burial costs, especially for individuals who may need Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) later in life.

"A licensed funeral director can provide more information about how to set aside money if qualifying for Medicare or SSI is a concern for your family," she said.

Government burial assistance for those experiencing financial hardship is available in some states, including Michigan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides disaster and coronavirus-related aid, including funeral expenses.

But John Breyault, vice president for public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, said the ads on Facebook are "incredibly deceptive."

"Anyone who fills out their questionnaire will not suddenly get tens of thousands of dollars for funeral expenses," he said.

Instead, Breyault said the posts likely collect social media users' personal information, potentially leading to "emails, phone calls, text messages and even in-person visits" to try to sell them a product or service.

"If you are interested in getting money to help pay for your end-of-life expenses, your best bet is to reach out to a trusted insurance agent in your community who is registered in your state," he said.

AFP has previously debunked other misleading claims about financial relief offers here, here and here.