Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Kipling, Sask. –

A Kipling, Sask. family says their grieving process has been stalled as they try to debunk misinformation spreading through fraudulent obituaries about their daughter.

Isabel “Izzy” Wilson, 22, died unexpectedly in a car crash near Davin, Sask. on Oct. 7.

Before her family could even meet with the funeral director, unofficial obituaries for Izzy were popping up online.

Her parents Quentin and Michelle Wilson only noticed after a local newspaper published a front-page article based on an RCMP release and several fraudulent obituaries that seemed legitimate. The article incorrectly identified Izzy’s parents and brother, and included a funeral date.

“It said that her funeral was Oct. 13 and we hadn’t talked to the funeral home. We were just going in Oct. 12 to just even start planning anything,” Michelle said.

“It was shocking and it had a lot of people asking questions.”

The newspaper apologized to the Wilsons and issued a correction.

A week later, family members found a YouTube video of a person reading Izzy’s obituary that they could watch if they subscribed to the page.

“They’re preying on Izzy and it’s not right,” Michelle said.

Izzy’s official obituary is posted on Dignity Memorial’s website.

CTV News found at least six other third-party sites with Izzy’s obituary that contain varying information, including errors in her age, hometown and details surrounding the fatal crash.

Isabel “Izzy” Wilson was killed in a car accident near Davin, Sask. on Oct. 7. (Photo courtesy: Quentin Wilson)

“I personally think it has stalled my process in grieving because this was such a traumatic event as it is,” Michelle said.

Tubman Funeral Home is in charge of Izzy’s funeral services.

Funeral director and embalmer Monica Dayman said she’s seen a few incidents with fraudulent obituaries that have resulted in the wrong address of the funeral service being posted.

Other times, she said community members have purchased flowers on these third-party sites that were never delivered to the funeral. But she has never encountered a situation like the Wilsons.’

“It’s definitely the most devastating I’ve seen,” Dayman said.

“We just said we have to figure out some way to educate our consumers and the general public so that people stop biting into these sites and getting taken in.”

Dayman said the funeral home is working with the local newspaper to promote public awareness.

Consumers should look for a funeral home linked to the obituary and see if it is being shared by the person’s family. If not, she said those are two big clues that the site likely isn’t legit.

According to a spokesperson from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), seven reports related to fraudulent obituaries have been reported this year. There was no reported dollar loss linked to any of the reports.

“Unfortunately, fraudulent obituaries have been reported for a number of years. We haven’t necessarily noticed an increase so far this year,” the CAFC spokesperson said.

The CAFC recommends consumer do their research before making a donation, which could include contacting the funeral home directly or paying close attention to the web address and contact information listed on the site.


A Victoria-based funeral services marketing expert first discovered “obituary piracy” about six years ago, but he said that does not mean it wasn’t happening before then.

Robin Heppell, a funeral strategy and marketing executive for Funeral Boardroom, used to be a developer and hoster for funeral home websites.

“What we discovered was that there were these third-party websites that were just scraping [the funeral home’s website] and placing the obituary up on their site,” Heppell said.

“From what I can tell, their goal was to get this third-party revenue coming in, whether it’s selling flowers or other mementos.”

Heppell said funeral home websites are often targeted because obituaries are in high supply and demand, which means they can bring a large amount of traffic to a site.

Some piracy websites will include pop-up ads that could generate revenue based on the number of clicks they receive. However, Heppell said the majority of revenue would come from links to purchase flowers or a memorial tree in honour of the deceased. Scammers would then pocket the cash.

“I would think that they don’t care even if the information is right. They’re just trying to get the eyeballs, and they’re trying to get the sales,” said Heppell, adding that these third-party sites do not seek permission to post obituaries.

Despite how common obituary piracy can be, Heppell believes the Wilsons’ circumstance is “quite rare.”

He believes their situation was a result of Isabel’s young age and unexpected passing, coupled with the time gap between her death and when an official obituary was released.

“A couple of those things had to happen for this instance to take off,” he said.

Heppell said the piracy sites “would have had to do a whole lot more work” to create fake obituaries from news articles and social media posts, rather than ripping off the information from a funeral home site.

“These companies are too lazy to write an obituary, they would just rather steal it. They’d rather scrape it,” Heppell said.


Jonathan Anderson, an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Memorial University, said “web scraping” is a tool often used by third-party sites or scammers to extract and download large amounts of information or text from websites.

These tools can allow third-parties to pull data from thousands of funeral homes and automatically turn the information into text that can be used to scam people, he said.

“The thing about having an automated tool is you can scale it up. So instead of having one person visiting one funeral home’s website, you could have a tool that is running on all the funeral homes in your area or in fact other places if the scam is being done over the internet,” said Anderson, adding that web scraping tools are legal to use.

“The same kind of software that can be used for this criminal purpose can also be used to build a search engine index and other things in between,” he said.

Websites have the ability to add a certain file that essentially asks parties not to scrape the site.

Typically, search engines will honour that request, Anderson said, but the file does not technically prevent someone from downloading data from the site.

Many funeral homes offer email notifications to subscribers for every new obituary added to the website, which can make gathering this type of information even easier, according to Anderson.

Isabel’s mother Michelle says having to deal with the fake postings has deeply affected the family as they try to say goodbye.

“To have to try and put out these fires has rushed us in a lot of our planning,” she said.

“We haven’t been able to take our time and process things the way I think we should be allowed to.”

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