Home   News   Article

Bereaved Highland families warned to be 'vigilant' as scammers target with fake live-streams of funerals

By Rachel Smart

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Halde Pottinger received five messages from scammers on the day of his brother's funeral. Picture: Callum Mackay
Halde Pottinger received five messages from scammers on the day of his brother's funeral. Picture: Callum Mackay

Funeral directors across the Highlands are asking people to be ‘vigilant’ after a series of fraudulent scammers have been targeting bereaved families.

When deaths are being announced online, 'bots' are then sending messages to family members of lost loved ones, saying they can watch a live stream of the funeral online – but they must pay for it.

One of the people approached was Halde Pottinger from Inverness, who lost his 42-year-old brother a few weeks ago.

Working as a humanist celebrant for funerals and weddings, Halde was aware of the scammers, but was still shocked to receive five messages from fraudulent bot accounts on the day of his brother’s funeral.

Speaking about his experience, Mr Pottinger said: “Before Covid even the thought of live streaming or videoing would have been unheard of – but then with Covid and funerals became limited, so, live streaming was most effective as family members could still attend. Since then it’s become a norm with most funerals being live-streamed.

“Recently scammers have been starting to target this option that people have.

“My brother passed away and on the morning of his funeral I had five requests from five accounts, which had his name and photos. The scammer already had names of my families on their friends list, and were sending links for me to be able to ‘watch’ the live stream of the funeral.

“It’s horrendous. It is directly targeting families at their lowest and taking advantage.”

It is the norm for funeral directors to put a post out on social media and newspapers to tell people of funeral details. Scammers are then seeing this and creating profiles to target family members with links to a live stream.

Mr Pottinger continued: “It’s a faceless nameless crime. By the time an account is deleted, another one is set up instantly.

“I just want to make people aware as funerals are public events – nobody will ever be charged to go to one, whether it’s online or not.

“Some people can be desperate to see the funeral because they can’t make it in person, so they will perhaps fall for being targeted.”

Local funeral directors, D. Chisholm & Sons has seen bereaved families losing money due to being targeted by scammers.

D. Chisholm & Sons’ proprietor George Chisholm said: “Sadly, during the course of announcing ones passing, we have experienced fraudulent activity via comments on our Facebook page.

“Not only is this most upsetting for bereaved families but on some occasions, those wishing to participate on live stream have been misled into making a payment for this service which is in fact free of charge on our company website.

“This does seem to be happening in all areas and the best way to combat this is for the general public to be vigilant when signing up to watch a funeral service.”

William T Fraser and Son has warned that fake live-stream links for funeral services are targetting the public.

Taking to its Facebook page, the Inverness funeral directors said: "It has been brought to our attention that there has been fake live-stream links maliciously targetting funeral services.

"Please be aware that our live stream services are only broadcast live from our website at https://williamtfraserandson.co.uk/live-stream/.

"Please do not follow any other link Funeral recordings are available on request to family members only."

Police Scotland has said information on online scams can be found on its website.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More