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Inverness celebrant targeted by cruel scammers offering fake ‘live-stream’ of brother’s funeral

Halde Pottinger, a humanist celebrant, received five phony invites asking him to pay to watch his brother's funeral service online.

Halde Pottinger.
Halde Pottinger is warning of funeral scammers. Halde Pottinger.

A celebrant from Inverness has warned of fraudsters creating fake funeral ‘live streams’ after his own family were targeted.

Halde Pottinger has been trying to raise awareness of how grieving families are being targeted by scammers using phony Facebook pages and stolen images of those who have recently died.

They ask people for bank details to view a ‘live stream’ of their loved ones’ funeral in a scam that is happening the length and breadth of the country.

Being a humanist celebrant, conducting non-religious ceremonies around the world, Mr Pottinger has witnessed it happening to many people.

However he can now talk from personal experience after being targeted just a few weeks ago, when his own brother’s funeral fell victim.

Halde is a humanist celebrant. Image: Halde Pottinger.

Vulnerable families are being targeted

Around five phony social media pages with stolen images of his sibling had been made and sent to various members of his family.

Each of the pages asked for bank details to view a live stream of the service, even though the Pottinger family had no plans to stream the funeral.

Mr Pottinger said: “My own brother died just a few weeks ago aged 42, a sudden unexplained tragedy, leaving us all devastated.

“On the morning of my brothers funeral, I got there early to help take my brother in.

“Me and my family had a wee moment to ourselves and I went on my phone to turn it off.

“That’s when I saw all of these Facebook messages from five different accounts to gain access to a live stream for his funeral.

“All of these pages had my brother’s photo and his details.”

Similar scams are happening across the UK

Mr Pottinger said scammers are targeting people “at their most vulnerable”.

He said:  “We didn’t want it to spoil the day but I was made aware that various members of my family received these phony invites.

“I clicked on one page and they had already befriended my young niece.

“I received these invites an hour before the funeral. But, I wasn’t that surprised as you almost expect it because it is happening so often now.

“They are targeting people at their most vulnerable.”

Older generation likely being hit hardest

Multiple funeral directors say they have also fallen victim to scammers trying to steal cash from families going through bereavement.

Mr Pottinger is now trying to warn families to be vigilant of these types of scams, saying that “sadly the older generations are likely to be hit hardest”.

He said: “A normal and good person wouldn’t dream of anyone targeting a group of mourners, it’s so shocking.

“I’ve seen this happen to lots of funerals – ranging from the death of an elderly person who has been terminally ill, right to the death of a youth who has died unexpectedly.

“I just to make people aware that a funeral is a public event – unless it’s private – and is  always free, there is never a charge.

“No funeral director would charge anyone. The only way to stop this from happening is to make people aware.”

Halde Pottinger shared his own experience with the scam. Image: Halde Pottinger.

Since the Covid pandemic, there has been an increase in funeral services being live streamed to allow friends and family members who can’t attend in person, the chance to watch.

The Press & Journal previously reported how Fraserburgh Funeral Services, Robert Mackie Funeral Directors and Ian Esslemont Funeral Services have all fallen victim to the ‘live stream’ con. 

Craig Mackie, part of family-run Robert Mackie Funerals in Peterhead, said it’s a scam happening all over the country.

“We’re hearing about this as far south as Cornwall, all the way up to here,” he said.

“I’d encourage anyone getting such friend or payment requests to report it to Facebook, and as always, please remain vigilant online.

“As for the scammers themselves, they’ve no morals to do this to people who have just lost a loved one.”

‘Please report fraudulent activity’

We provided Meta – formerly Facebook – with details of the fraudulent pages which targeted Mr Pottinger’s family, to which they responded: “We don’t allow fraudulent activity on our platforms and we remove this content as soon as we become aware of it.

“We are continually investing in protections against fraud for people who use our platforms, and work closely with law enforcement to support investigations.

“We encourage our community to report activity like this to us and the police, so we can take action.”

Stolen pics and lookalike livestreams: The ‘sick’ Facebook funeral scams targeting Aberdeenshire and Moray mourners