A tragedy can bring out the kindness of others, or it can become a playground for fraud and deception.
Aftermath Inc., a company that offers crime scene and tragedy cleanup services, has been accused of exploiting multiple Texan families who had lost loved ones in gruesome ways, billing them up to 10 times their quoted price for services undelivered and supplies never used, according to Courthouse News Service. The company also allegedly threatened to claim the families' assets when insurance companies refused to cover the excess costs.
The families involved are not the first to voice grievances against Aftermath. The Illinois-based company appears to have exhibited a pattern of doing business in ways that have repeatedly resulted in allegations of deception and price gouging.
A Massachusetts woman, grieving from the gruesome murders of her children, told WHDH in November that the company unexpectedly charged her about $32,000 for services without providing a prior cost estimate and put a lien -- a legal claim over property for debt payment -- on her home while she was too distressed to contest the matter.
Similarly, another Massachusetts man reported to the news service that the company billed him about $30,000 for services that should have cost about half the amount. Five suits have been filed against Aftermath in Massachusetts alone, WHDH reported in November. (h/t Dallas Observer)
Still, Aftermath wouldn't be the only company to take advantage of customers in compromising situations. Nor are they the only ones to specifically target a demographic group. The elderly, for example, are typically targets of financial abuse. And in December, Bank of America reached a $335 million settlement over allegations that Countrywide Financial, once the nation's largest mortgage lender, systematically targeted black and hispanic homeowners with high-risk, high-cost loans.
Fraudsters also frequently come out of the woodwork during large-scale natural disasters. Charity scam organizations were on the prowl during the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and the March tornado catastrophe in the Midwest, in an aim to exploit the desperation and emotional distress of victims. Similar allegations arose in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.