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Aug 12, 2022 by |

Sonoma County Financial Elder Abuse Attorney: Theft Of Benefits From The Elderly

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Theft Of Benefits A Major Form Of Financial Elder Abuse 

Tracking Where A Senior’s Benefits Are Deposited

Online Access By Caregivers

One particularly devastating forms of financial elder abuse is when an individual, like a dishonest caregiver, redirects the Social Security, pension or other benefits of a senior into their own account.  We have seen this form of abuse in cases and typically it comes about because the caregiver or other person has gained online access to a senior’s account and can change the direct deposit instructions for benefits.  If the senior suffers from dementia or is debilitated by illness, or in hospice, they are particularly at risk of this maneuver.  Sometimes, the caregiver is able to redirect deposits by virtue of a power of attorney she or he has obtained from the senior.  We cannot stress enough that a senior should never, ever, grant a power of attorney to a caregiver or add a caregiver as an authorized signer on a checking account.  Never, ever allow either of these things because it so often leads to theft.  Any wrongful takings of a senior’s property, or any assistance in that taking, whether theft of cash, theft by check forgery or altered checks, or unauthorized use of credit or debit cards or online money transfers out of a senior’s accounts are crimes and grounds for civil liability of the person doing the taking and anyone assisting him or her. California Penal Code § 368 and Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30 (definition of financial elder abuse).   If you or a loved one is a victim of elder or dependent adult abuse or neglect in Sonoma County, or in San Francisco or elsewhere in California call us today at (415)441-8669. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Benefit Theft Cases[1]

A few recently reported cases illustrate how dishonest caregivers access a senior’s benefits:

  • One caregiver was recently indicted for allegedly stealing benefit funds from a veteran. She is accused of misappropriating the funds of a veteran declared legally incompetent and stealing from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  She is accused of taking $50,174.42.
  • A caregiver was sentenced to 57 months in prison for her theft of Social Security benefits that spanned more than 16 years.  In addition to prison, she was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $203,528.  According to court records, her scheme to defraud began when she concealed the death of a senior who had been in her care, and buried his body on rural private property.  Each month thereafter when his Social Security retirement benefits were electronically deposited to his bank account, the caregiver forged his name on checks payable to herself. 
  • Authorities allege a caregiver stole more than half a million dollars from elderly people and people with disabilities while working in her role as a home health aide, according to an indictment.  Specifically, the State alleges that the caregiver accessed various financial accounts from an elderly man with disabilities and stole at least $633,736 through writing checks, redirecting benefit deposits, transferring payments and changing beneficiary destinations on the man’s accounts. 

In most of these kind of cases, a loved one or family member might have caught this fraud had they been monitoring their loved one’s accounts and checking where their income was being deposited.

Contact Us

Always do a background check on anyone you hire as a caregiver; get references and call them.  Make sure any caregiver is denied access to any back account information; keep cash, checks and credit and debit cards out of reach.  Never, ever give a caregiver or “helper” or other new “friend” a Power of Attorney, credit card, or a blank check.  Never, ever, add a caregiver as an authorized signer on a checking account.  Check every month to make sure your loved one’s Social Security, pension, and other benefits are being deposited into his or her own account and that you can verify the money is there. Stay involved in any senior loved one’s life so a stranger does not have the opportunity for this kind of theft and exploitation.  If you sense any kind of abuse of an older loved one, call us right away.  Ingrid M. Evans has years of experience in representing seniors and their families against abusers of any kind, including in-home caregivers.  You can reach us at (415) 441-8669, or by email at info@evanslaw.com. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in any of these three cases in any way.

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