8 Tips to Prevent Theft and Fraud

{4:50 minutes to read}

Jeremy was so glad to be coming home after a two-month stay in a nursing home. He had suffered a stroke, but finally recovered to the point where his needs could be met with in-home care.

Edward, Jeremy’s brother, arranged for the care and services that Jeremy would need at home, including home health aides, visits by nurses and physical therapists, and delivery of groceries, medicines and personal care products. Debit cards were on hand to pay for delivery orders and cash to tip service providers.

Jeremy had been home a few weeks when Edward received two alerts from Jeremy’s bank of suspicious debit card charges. After an investigation, Edward discovered that one home health aide had charged the card for her personal expenses. She had also stolen $400 in cash as well as several blank checks, one of which she used by forging Jeremy’s signature.

The story eventually had a happy ending.  Diane and Rebecca supported Edward in making claims with the bank and the home health care agency and in filing the necessary police reports. Here are the steps that were taken:

  • The bank immediately refunded the amounts fraudulently withdrawn from the debit card and stolen checks.
  • A new debit card was issued to replace the one being used fraudulently and we updated Jeremy’s auto-payments with his new account information.
  • The police department was thorough in its investigation and the aide was arrested and charged for theft.
  • The home health aide agency that provided the aide refunded the stolen cash.

Thefts like these are on the rise. This case points out the importance of heightened security when circumstances change. After his stroke, Jeremy had to rely on others for tasks he used to do himself. Therefore, there were a lot of new people in his home.

If circumstances are changing for you or someone you care about, what can you do to prevent such fraud and theft?

  1. Hire only aides, therapists and other specialists who are fully insured and bonded.
  2. If hiring aides privately and not through an agency, do a thorough background check.
  3. Have the bank set up an auto-alert on credit/debit cards for any transaction above $100.
  4. Have checkbooks, debit/credit cards and cash secured or kept by someone trustworthy, such as a family member, daily money manager or power of attorney.
  5. Remove small valuable items, such as jewelry or rare coins, to a safe location.
  6. Review the homeowner’s insurance policy. Update riders and valuations for art and collectibles. Be sure the policy covers theft and damage even if you can’t prove who stole the items or caused the damage and/or you can’t prove the exact date when the theft or damage occurred. Be sure liability coverage is sufficient to protect against claims for personal injury.
  7. Whenever possible, set up accounts with grocery stores and pharmacies so purchases are charged and billed monthly. This way you avoid paying for these products in cash or by giving out credit/debit card information over the phone where you might be overheard.
  8. Keep only minimal amounts of cash on hand for tips or other out-of-pocket expenses. Require aides to maintain a petty cash log to account for use of these funds.

If you see signs of theft or fraud:

  • Document everything - who, what, where, why and when. (Important: Notes may become discoverable in court.)
  • Cancel any credit/debit cards with fraudulent charges.
  • Stop payment on any missing checks.
  • Call the police to file a report. Depending on the extent of the theft or fraud, you may also want to notify the local FBI office, Adult Protective Services, and any other institutions that are involved, such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid or, for international frauds, the Department of Homeland Security.
  • If goods are missing or damaged, file a claim with your insurance company.

It may be beneficial to notify the bank of fraud or theft first, and then file a police report. We understand that some banks will defer to the police department’s procedures once a report has been filed, and this may delay the bank’s actions, such as replacing credit/debit cards.

As needs and support systems change, it is important to assess what should be done to maintain safety, security and comfort. If you or someone in your care is transitioning to a new living space or requiring different home care support, be sure to evaluate and address new security risks that may arise. This is the best way to assure continued comfort and peace of mind for all concerned.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us for a complimentary phone consultation in New York at 212-987-1427 or in Los Angeles at 626-372-0090.

Diane Lansing

Diane Lansing
diane@eddyandschein.com

 

 

Eddy & Schein
212. 987.1427
NYmail@eddyandschein.com

626.372.0090
CAmail@eddyandschein.com

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