Caregiver Scams Target Most Vulnerable Victims

The 4 most common caregiver scams: Internet Scambusters #481

Caregiver scams usually involve theft or abuse, targeting vulnerable victims, sometimes on an alarming scale.

They also lure would-be carers into applying for phony jobs that end up costing them money.

But there are lots of precautions you can take to reduce the risk of you or someone near and dear to you becoming a victim, as we explain in this week’s issue.

Caregiver Scams Target Most Vulnerable Victims

Targeting vulnerable people is a common source of crime, and caregiver scams are among the most despicable.

Those least able to protect themselves are at the mercy of people designated to take care of them but sometimes the caregivers are more concerned about looking after their own interests.

Tricksters also use the lure of caregiver employment to fool job hunters into parting with their money.

This includes an oft-used version of the Nigerian scam in which the victim ends up wiring cash to the scammer.

Caregiver scams take many forms but they mostly fall under four main types:

1. Financial scams

This is probably the most common type of caregiver scam and it happens both in residential or convalescence facilities and in private home-based care.

In its mildest form — experienced by the family of one of the Scambusters team — a caregiver spins a story about being unable to afford a special event celebration or meet a sudden and unexpected bill.

They persist with this tale of woe until the victim finally offers to cover the cost.

Of course, this may be just the start. Once a scammer realizes there’s an easy route to getting cash, they’re likely to repeat the trick.

Often, other members of the family are unaware of this trickery. Victims, especially the elderly, are remarkably secretive about this type of behavior.

From here, we move on to straightforward theft, when caregivers simply steal money and valuables from the person in their charge.

This crime also is not always easy to detect.

Sometimes victims are unaware of the theft. In other cases they may frequently say they’ve been robbed to the point where family members don’t know what to believe.

In their worst form, financial-type caregiver scams involve a wholesale theft of the victim’s entire fortune.

It’s not uncommon for this to involve a bogus romance and has even been known to go as far as marriage, with the victim bequeathing their estate to the new spouse.

Actions: As we’ve suggested, these crimes mostly involve elderly victims. If you’re in this category, beware! Don’t give money to a caregiver without consulting your family, no matter how plausible their need may seem.

Family members should also be switched-on to the risk of this crime, monitoring an elderly relative’s spending and, if necessary, talking to an attorney to take legal powers to control it.

2. Unqualified Caregivers

It’s a fact that, in some circumstances, you don’t need a formal qualification to take care of somebody else.

Indeed, many of us find ourselves thrust into the role of caregiver for a family member, with little or no experience with what we’re supposed to do.

And, of course, a common form of caregiving is babysitting, which often involves a neighbor or relative doing the job.

However, there are professional qualifications for caregivers, and people who set themselves up in this kind of business should be both qualified and licensed with the county and/or state.

Either way, you need to satisfy yourself as to the competence of any individual or care home you’re thinking of using to meet any legal requirements associated with the care need and their ability to do the job.

Certainly, you should always ask for references from any caregiver individual or organizations you’re considering.

Homes should be licensed and insured and you should check their record with your state licensing board.

Learn more about checking out credentials in this previous Scambusters issue, How to Do a Credentials Check on Almost Anyone.

3. Abusive Caregivers

Well, maybe this doesn’t really qualify as a caregiver scam but ill-treatment of vulnerable people — the elderly, the very young, and those with mental disabilities — is a form of a deception.

When you place someone with a caregiver, it’s reasonable to assume they’re doing just that — giving care.

But that often calls for two important elements that aren’t on the formal qualifications list — compassion and patience.

Caregivers who lack these may resort to physical abuse, which could range from a slap to some form of confinement, like being locked in a room, tied to a chair or otherwise humiliated.

Action: Check out references before using a particular provider. Don’t just take a written reference as evidence. Speak to past clients.

Look out for physical signs of injury or tell-tale behaviors that suggest distress.

Request or conduct a thorough investigation if you’re told a person has been injured through an accident.

Make a habit of dropping by unexpectedly to visit the individual.

4. Bogus Jobs and Nanny Scams

If you are a caregiver or nanny, look out for the well-known scam in which a crook advertises online or even emails you about full-time employment as a nanny (usually abroad) or about looking after a son or daughter who is going to be visiting your locale.

This may be a prelude to a Nigerian advance fee scam in which you receive a check to pay upfront for your services, plus some extra that you’re asked to wire to a third party to cover some other aspect, like tuition fees, for the youngster.

The check, of course, is bogus and the money you wire goes straight into the scammer’s pocket.

In other cases, you may be asked to simply wire money to pay for your airfare or lodging, or even to provide credit card details for some purpose.

Three giveaways for these types of caregiver scams are: poor spelling and grammar in the correspondence, a fantastically high salary and a seeming willingness to employ you without checking your credentials.

To repeat our regular warning: Never wire money to someone you don’t know.

Again, this is a commercially-operated site but it does have a comprehensive list of scammers’ email addresses and some of the phony lines they use.

Also, check out this Scambusters report on a variation of this scam involving bogus tutoring jobs, Tutor Scam Alert for Work-Seekers.

Looking after vulnerable people is a big responsibility and we have nothing but admiration and gratitude for those who do it properly.

That makes it all the sadder that a small but significant number choose instead to perpetrate caregiver scams, inflicting financial and emotional suffering on everyone involved.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.