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Family warns that obituary pirates are exploiting the losses of metro Detroiters

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 18:49:15-04

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ)  — A family is sending out the warning to others who have lost loved ones. Obituary pirates could be trying to exploit your loss for profit.

Cynthia Sweet’s family has experienced a lot of loss and heartbreak in 2020. In March, her grandfather William “Big Bill” Kandilian of Farmington Hills passed away. In August, her dad William “Little Bill” Kandilian of Commerce passed away.

Her sister searched her dad’s name on-line to pull up his obituary recently and something strange caught her eye. Her grandpa’s obituary came up under a stranger’s name.

Cynthia says they went to work to find out why this would happen. They first reached out to the funeral director who took care of their grandpa’s service. He tells 7 Action News he found out that the obituaries of numerous people whose funerals were here in metro-Detroit were pasted under the names of strangers.

So why would someone do this? The Michigan Funeral Directors Association tells 7 Action News it appears to be what is called obituary piracy. The likely goal? Profit.

“They ask for people to contribute to funeral expenses on the website,” said Cynthia.

Cynthia’s cousin is the husband of 7 Action News Reporter Kim Russell, who covered this story. When Kim dialed the phone number listed on the questionable obituary website, it was not valid. Emails were not returned.

The National Funeral Director’s Association has been notified about this site. It reports a surge in obituary piracy in recent months, targeting people around the country. Federal investigators are looking into these sites and finding that many are based overseas.\

Cynthia is speaking out in her grandpa’s honor, knowing he would be outraged to see someone hijacked his obituary to potentially profit from his loved ones’ loss.

The big message is if you are trying to contribute to a family’s funeral expenses, before you donate on-line, make sure the site is actually connected to and giving to the family you care about.