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Cremation Scams

Tips for Assuring a Quality Service

Cremation scams are at the forefront of consumer concerns today in the memorial industry thanks, in large part, to the infamous "Tri-State Crematory" case of 2002. A Georgia family attracted national attention when they were discovered to have never conducted hundreds of cremations they had been hired to perform. Instead, the crematory owners simply buried bodies or left them to decay in sheds. Customers were given urns filled with sand or dirt.

Cremation scams are understandably the forefront of consumer concerns todayWhile the owners of this crematory were given harsh criminal penalties and subject to much, justified, public criticism, this case has not resulted in widespread new legislation regulating the operation on crematories. That said, it has definitely created a strong interest among consumer protection and industry groups who want to assure that the Tri-State Crematory is, very much, an isolated operation.

Below are a few tips that experts recommend for families considering cremation:

First, it is important to ask about a crematory's identification procedure. Reputable operations will be glad to explain in detail how they assure that a body is properly identified from the time it arrives until it leaves as ashes. Some crematories will allow family members to view a cremation upon request, but, in many states, honoring such requests is, in fact, illegal. Likewise, some states have laws prohibiting funeral directors or other crematory employees from opening a cremation container once it has been closed before cremation. These laws, admittedly, only hinder a crematory's ability to assure that bodies are properly identified, but regardless, reputable facilities will have plenty of other operational safeguards in place. Many horrific cases of cremation misidentification are common throughout the internet. (In one such story, a family scattered a man's ashes across an open field and discovered a set of dentures at the bottom of the empty urn. This was a shocking find because the man in question had perfectly healthy teeth for his entire life.) And not all of them occurred at completely fraudulent operators. Nevertheless, a thorough identification process should make such errors a very rare experience, and it is important for consumers to understand the process.

Extreme awareness in the consumer is necessary when considering cremationThe other issue that consumers should be aware of is that of optional services that are typically available from crematories. A no-frills, "direct cremation" can often cost less than $1,000, but that price can go up dramatically if other optional items and services are included. It is important for customers to understand that these additional items are, in most cases, not required. Embalming, for example, is necessary only in cases in which a body will be stored for a considerable amount of time before cremation. Expensive, elaborate caskets, likewise, are never legally required for cremation. Moreover, families who are interested in having a viewing have the option of utilizing a cremation friendly casket for those services - there is no rule that says a loved one needs to be displayed in a hardwood or metal casket for this purpose. In addition, of course, visitation and viewing hours are optional services that crematories and funeral homes are prohibited from including into the price of a cremation.

In general, as uncomfortable as it may be in a time of grief and need, consumer vigilance is as good an idea when it comes to cremation as it is in buying a new appliance or vehicle. Reputable operations understand this and will not object to your asking important questions and making wise financial decisions. Fortunately, most crematories today are reputable operations.

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