Caregiver scam targets the elderly

Created: 05/22/2014 6:49 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Rip-off artists are preying on the elderly like never before, and Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg wants to crack down hard on them.

We're talking swindlers, sneak thieves, check forgers, embezzlers and other lowlife weasels. Many of them are actually family members or caregivers – people close to the victim.

It was an independently hired caregiver who ripped Joann DeBruin of Albuquerque to the tune of $117,000. Her husband Hank died in 2012 and Joann died last year, before she could testify against the woman who swindled her. Case dismissed. Now Joann's son, Stephen Watson of Albuquerque, says we should learn from this.

"Caregivers who work through agencies or retirement facilities and so on, usually the facility or the caregiver are licensed and bonded," Watson said during a media briefing with Brandenburg.  "Independent caregivers are not. This needs to change and I think the state legislature may be able to provide some relief."

"I think it's essential, given the fact that our population is aging," Brandenburg agreed. "I think it's critical. We would support it and I think that we could cut down on some of this elderly abuse."

More than 10 percent of the nation's senior citizens reported being abused, neglected or exploited, according to national adult protective services authorities. They also say many more cases go unreported. Brandenburg adds that many elderly people wind up signing a power of attorney document, allowing another person to handle their finances for them. Brandenburg calls it a "license to steal" when it's in the wrong hands.

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