Home > Identity Theft > Caregiver Admits to Stealing Over $900K From Elderly Woman

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Caring for an elderly or disabled person requires great responsibility. Caregivers have so much control over the lives of those they care for, and unfortunately, that’s an often-abused power.

A woman in Arizona was just sentenced to 10 years in prison for doing just that. Shirley Gonzales defrauded an elderly woman of nearly $1 million over the course of six years, in addition to taking out a reverse mortgage on the woman’s home, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Gonzales, now 59, was hired to take care of Sandra Getz in 2007. Getz, who was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, died in 2013. In that time, prosecutors say Gonzales wrote more than 800 checks to herself and family members, taking more than $917,000 from Getz’s accounts.

Oddly enough, Gonzales hasn’t been able to account for what she did with all the money. She admitted to taking it and explained how she spent $16,000, the Star reports, but that’s it — police haven’t been able to find the money, and Gonzales didn’t say what she did with it. The assistant attorney general who filed the case against Gonzales said Getz was broke by the time she died.

Gonzales pleaded guilty to fraud, making this her sixth conviction since 1979, the Star reports. She was first convicted of forging signatures on checks that belonged to the owner of a home where she worked as a maid.

What happened to Getz is unfortunately just one version of a common story. It’s sad, but it also serves as a reminder of how important it is for friends or relatives of people who can’t care for themselves to not ignore that person’s finances. It’s unclear if Getz had anyone who could have protected her from Gonzales’ abuse, but it would have been wise for someone to keep an eye on Getz’s bank accounts and credit reports. You are your own best defense against fraud and identity theft, and unfortunately, many identity thieves and fraudsters target older Americans because of this. Monitoring your financial accounts, as well as getting your credit reports for free once a year and checking your credit scores are all best practices for keeping your identity safe. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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