Nova Scotia

N.S. family targeted by funeral scam

A bereaved Cape Breton family say they were targeted by a scam during a service to say goodbye to their loved one.

Friends and family gathered last month to celebrate the life of Amelia Theresa Skalaa of Glace Bay, N.S., who died June 21 at the age of 77.

Granddaughter Abigail Skalaa was putting out trays of sweets and sandwiches at a local firehall when she received a notification on her smartwatch.

Someone was inviting her to watch her grandmother’s funeral service online and had shared the Facebook page with hundreds of others.

“I thought it was weird because none of us said that we were going to livestream this,” said Skalaa, a university student living in Fredericton, N.B. 

“It said to donate to the family. It wasn’t us, it was a scam, but someone was taking donations.”

Following her death last month at age 77, a Facebook page was created in memory of Amelia Theresa Skalaa. Her family says a few people donated to the scam page that provided a link for donations. (Source: Facebook )

Pictures used

Skalaa said whoever created the page used photographs that had been posted online to convince people the livestream was real. 

Before the family realized the page existed, some people had already donated to it. 

“No one really wants to reach out at a hard time like this and say, ‘Is this really you guys?’ So people were just donating,” Skalaa said.

“[The scam is] insulting actually, because that’s already an extremely hard time for my family and we just lost my grandfather in October. So we lost the two of them within the year. And it was just making such a hard time for us and our family that much harder.”

For the remainder of the event, Skalaa said instead of being able to focus solely on sharing stories about the woman known as Mimi, some people were distracted trying to make sure no one else lost money. 

Abigail Skalaa is pictured with her late grandparents Rudy and Amelia (Mimi) Skalaa. Following her death last month, scammers created a Facebook page asking for donations for Skalaa's family.
Abigail Skalaa is pictured with her late grandparents Rudy and Amelia (Mimi) Skalaa. Following her grandmother’s death last month, scammers created a Facebook page asking for donations for the Skalaa family. (Submitted by Abigail Skalaa )

Growing number of industry scams, says funeral director  

Kollin Weatherbee, who owns and operates Sydney Memorial Chapel in Sydney, N.S., said there are a growing number of scams impacting the funeral industry. 

The eastern region representative for the Funeral Service Association of Canada, Weatherbee said scammers will often create web pages posing as funeral homes to try to persuade people to buy memorial trees or flowers that do not exist. 

“We are trying to lobby the right people to make laws, but with websites and the internet, it’s very hard to track down exactly one person that’s causing these issues,” he said. 

Kollin Weatherbee is the owner and operator of Sydney Memorial Chapel in Sydney, N.S.
Kollin Weatherbee is the owner and operator of Sydney Memorial Chapel. The eastern region representative of the Funeral Service Association of Canada says there’s a growing number of scams that are targeting the industry. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

“There are multiple different websites now that are attacking different funeral homes across Canada. So it’s not just an Atlantic Canada or Nova Scotia occurrence, it is happening right across the country.”

Weatherbee said people who are concerned about possible scams can try calling funeral homes to verify any donation requests. 

He said staff may be able to help discern what’s real and what is fake.

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