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

Funeral directors are warning north-east communities to be on the look out for phony funeral invites.

Fraserburgh funeral director Paul Deans, one of the many whose business has been targeted by scammers.
Fraserburgh funeral director Paul Deans, one of the many whose business has been targeted by scammers.

Fraudsters are using fake funeral live streams to con cash from Aberdeenshire and Moray mourners.

Using phony Facebook pages and stolen images of those who have recently died, grieving family members are being asked for bank details to view a “live stream” of their loved ones’ funerals.

Multiple funeral directors have fallen victim to these unscrupulous scammers trying to coax cash from the bereaved.

All are now warning their online followers to be vigilant while Facebook has agreed to investigate the wrongful racket.

‘Disgusting tactics’

Paul Deans of Fraserburgh Funeral Services has started adapting his online notices to thwart the callous con artists.

“It’s absolutely disgusting. They’re sick. Imagine targeting people at their most vulnerable – when they’ve lost a friend or family member?

Paul Deans who runs Fraserburgh Funeral Services. Picture by Kenny Elrick/ DCThomson.

“I’ve actually had to start adding ‘this funeral is not being live streamed’ to our online notices so the wider community isn’t taken in by it.”

Paul was initially alerted to the scam by clients who had been privately messaged.

Grieving relatives targeted

Using a photo of 33-year-old Emma Smith from Strichen, her friends were sent multiple links to what looked like the live streaming of her funeral service.

Her family said they were grateful to Paul for paying attention and warning them and others, adding that “some people in this world have no scruples or conscience, unfortunately”.

An online warning had to be issued to stop scammers getting the bank details of the bereaved using Emma’s photo.

“Recently some of those commenting on our notices then received messages pretending to have a link to a live stream of the funeral service, asking for money to view it.

“I mean it’s not ‘pay per view’ – we’re not the boxing!

“Whoever does this is the lowest of the low,” added Paul.

“It makes me so angry that people grieving could have photos of their loved ones stolen to trick others into parting with their money.”

‘You’ll never be asked for money’

Paul, like Alexander Buchan Funerals, has also had to alert his customers to his entire Facebook page being cloned.

And Huntly funeral director Ian Esslemont has experienced the same live-stream scam.

“We’ve let our customers, and those who follow us on social media, know to be extra careful. If they see anything like this we’ve asked them to let us know, but to also report it to Facebook.

Be aware of fake friend requests.

“I don’t know a single funeral director who would ask for money to view a live stream. Everything is included in the costs of the funeral. Nobody should ever be asked to pay.”

‘They’ve no morals’

Craig Mackie part of family-run Robert Mackie Funerals in Peterhead said it’s a scam happening the length and breadth of the country.

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

“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.”

‘It was very convincing’

Caroline Paterson from Blackburn is one of the people who received an invitation to “pay to view” a fake live-stream.

“Someone in our family died. I commented on the page of a family member; sending my condolences.

“Soon after, I saw a post on my page with a picture of her (the deceased). My first thought was, ‘How thoughtful, they must know my husband can’t be there and so they’ve sent me a link to the live stream.’ It seemed genuine.”

Using a photo of the deceased in the foreground with a coffin in the background Caroline said it was very convincing.

Reporting it daily

“Thankfully I realised the funeral wasn’t being streamed at all. It was a fake link,” said Caroline, originally from Macduff.

“I reported it right away, and have done so every day since, because Facebook doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with someone using my dead friend’s picture to get money from people.

Meta – owners of Facebook – has so far not responded positively to Caroline’s pleas.

“However, I’ll keep going until they listen. Not everyone will realise it’s a con. People, in the middle of grief, could put their bank details in, and goodness knows what could happen next. It’s truly vile.”

Investigation launched

AD Walker in Banff and Tom Ross and Sons in Forres also posted warnings on their Facebook pages and alerted customers to the same scams.

Peterhead mum Pamela Smith said her daughter was duped into typing in bank details to view her mother-in-law’s funeral.

Countless others confirmed invitations were received, branding the ploy “a disgrace”.

We provided Meta with details of all the businesses and families affected.

The Facebook parent company has confirmed it is now investigating the situation.