Home News Sick funeral scammers target grieving family of Scots tourist who died in Prague
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Sick funeral scammers target grieving family of Scots tourist who died in Prague

Sick funeral scammers target grieving family of Scots tourist who died in Prague
Sick funeral scammers target grieving family of Scots tourist who died in Prague

The family of a tourist who tragically died after leaping from a party boat in Prague has been subjected to an abhorrent scam involving his funeral.

Joop Sparkes, a resident of Galashiels, mysteriously disappeared after plunging into the Vltava River on Sunday, April 27. The young man’s body was located in the water a week later after a tormented search.

However, merely hours after his family shared the heartbreaking news via Facebook, deplorable fraudsters had set up three counterfeit pages to market his memorial service.

Stolen photographs of the 29-year-old were exploited to entice friends and family into handing over money for access to a live-stream of the service, with prompts requesting banking details.

His sister, Jodie Wilson, expressed her dismay, saying, “It’s absolutely disgraceful how these people target families dealing with loss. We already have enough to deal with without worrying about our loved ones being scammed.”

“The disturbing part was the speed at which these pages were set up. We only learned about Joop’s body being found on Monday morning.”

Tragically, one family friend had already provided the fraudsters their payment information before Jodie was able to caution them. They have since reported the fraud to their bank.

Jodie elaborated, “They appear to have specifically targeted people who responded to our posts over the past week or so. We and countless others have reported the fraudulent pages, but two still remain active online.”

Jodie’s ordeal is part of a growing issue of fraudsters exploiting mourners in an attempt to scam them for money.

A recent surge in such fraudulent schemes tricking mourners, was confirmed by funeral directors and ministers who have been urging individuals to safeguard themselves against deceivers piggybacking on funeral posts. Notably, Rev Barry Hughes highlighted that scammers had targeted four funerals he had presided over.

Joop’s funeral service is being organised by Awdri Doyle from A & A Doyle Funeral Directors, who confirmed that this type of scam is a widespread concern within the industry.

“It’s abhorrent to take advantage of a grieving family, and sadly, Joop’s family is not the first this scheme has affected – it’s been happening more and more recently,” she revealed.

“Every single one of my clients should be aware that they should never be asked to pay to attend a funeral service online because if anyone is asked to do so, it’s a guaranteed scam.”

“Joop’s family became the first clients of mine targeted in this manner this week. But, through colleagues, I was aware that it’s been a recurring issue for a while now.”

An increase in this type of fraud started to be noticed at the commencement of the year, particularly in Scotland – a problem highlighted by Nick Britten from the National Association of Funeral Directors. High-profile deaths such as Joop’s have been particularly targeted.

A spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors said: “Friends and family of the deceased are not only asked to provide their credit card info to supposedly attend the funeral but are sometimes asked to accept friend requests from the fraudsters, thereby granting them access to their Facebook info and pictures. These links are fake and anyone who engages and provides their credit or debit card details will be doing so to fraudsters.”

“This is an atrocious practice, exploiting bereaved individuals. Our recommendation to the public is to be extremely cautious of any external links supposedly promoting live-streams, fundraisers, or asking for donations. It is always advisable to double-check with the family or the funeral director to see whether it is genuine.”

The National Cyber Security Centre takes reports of cyber crime, as suggested by Police Scotland. Fraudsters often hack social media and email accounts to impersonate trusted friends and family. Always verify by contacting the person through other means i.e., via telephone, before agreeing to send money to anyone claiming to be a friend or family member on a social media site.

Meta, Facebook’s owners, issued a statement that they do not condone such activities on their platforms and that they have removed the pages as soon as they were notified.

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