Sad Sign of The Times

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

There is an assumption - an expectation, if you will - that surrounding the event of a funeral, there is a heightened level of respect and morality.  We live in a world where there is always someone ready to take advantage of any vulnerability to create scams or steal an identity. The sad truth is that even funerals aren't safe from theft. It's a very hard topic for me to speak about, because in my heart I wish that there wasn't a need to.

But then, someone walked into our funeral home, grabbed donation envelopes from the wake room and walked right out of the building, only to be followed on foot by my employee with the police on his cell phone, giving them information until he was apprehended. 

This incidence made me think back to some other things that have fallen out of practice over the past decades:

  • Addresses in Obituaries - It used to be very common for the deceased's address to be listed in the obituary. This helped with recognition and also made it convenient for those in the family's support network to send donations/flowers/food to the home. The vulnerability - which was nationally taken advantage of - was that the families were essentially advertising an address that would be empty during the funeral services, also mentioned in the obituary.
  • Repast Information in Obituary - Another old common practice was for the details of where the family would be gathering after the funeral for food/refreshments to be listed in the obituary. This led to many people showing up for free food, regardless of wether or not they knew the deceased or family. This vulnerability also occurred at a period of time when families were less likely to question the presence of people they didn't directly know. 
  • Date of Birth in the Obituary - The deceased's date of birth is another item you'll notice mentioned less and less in obituaries, but used to be very common. From a standpoint of protecting the deceased's identity, the DOB is something that shouldn't be given out, especially in an obituary. Obituaries these days are not only in newspapers, but also spread around the internet AND usually includes the Date of Death and Mother's Maiden Name. When these items are combined, this makes a massive vulnerability for identity theft.

With all of these things, the vulnerability was realized and adjustments were made. That in itself is a "sign of the times". We are in an age where the possibilities are endless for loopholes and ways to be stolen from or taken advantage of. Society in general has two choices: To Be Proactive or To Become Paranoid. 

Proactivity is always the best weapon. Know the vulnerabilities and prepare accordingly.

I'm talking today about this to help everyone in the funeral setting, from directors to families and friends, so that together we can be proactive. The people out there taking such horrible advantage of grieving families will no longer think they are "easy targets" if we are proactive and prepared.

At Silva-Faria Funeral Homes, we now have beautiful locked card boxes that will be placed right beside the family, but for those attending services anywhere, here are some guidelines:

  • Checks are always better to give to the family or a chosen charity than cash. This way if someone does steal any envelopes, they won't be able to cash them.
  • If you have to give cash, present the cash in an envelope or card directly to the hands of a family member in the receiving line.
  • Funeral homes are not supposed to give out the family's address. So if there are no funeral services, if the services are private or you simply cannot attend the services, first - refer to the obituary as it will provide information if there is a charity you can donate to directly in the deceased's name, or mail your donation to the family c/o the funeral home and they will forward it to the family on your behalf.

As always, I'm available for any questions or concerns you may have. Feel free to email me directly at or comment below. 

Coming up on The Silva Lining, I will be talking about funeral processions, veterans and covering the topic of what to do after the funeral, in regards to organizing and helping empty the deceased's property/apartment and resources for estate sales, etc.

Are there any topics you'd like to hear me talk about?

The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor:

St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at