A new financial scam warning is out for those seeking caregivers for their elderly relatives. California couple Andrew and Elizabeth Berkes are now in the midst of a huge legal issue after they hired a part-time caregiver. This resulted in caregiver Heidi Miller pleading guilty to federal charges, resulting in a 33-month prison sentence after admitting to taking more than $360,000 of the Berkes’ money.
Amid Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the couple is now speaking out about financial scams in order to help other families who may be searching for caregiver help—and how they can prevent this financial scam from taking place.
New financial scam warning in place for those seeking caregivers
“We’re really grateful for the work that the FBI did, that the U.S. Attorney did on our behalf,” Elizabeth told Maria Shriver on TODAY. “They can’t give our parents back their health. They can’t give them back this house. They can’t repair the damage that has been done to our family as we try to put the pieces back together. And so I would say that the best thing that people can do is prevent this from happening.”
Andrew’s parents, Leslie and Cheryl, first began showing signs of a health decline when they were 70 in 2016. It eventually progressed to a point where Andrew and Elizabeth needed to find extra care for them. Leslie has severe dementia, while Cheryl has Alzheimer’s.
The couple used Care.com to find a reliable caregiver
They found their caregiver on Care.com, which is a popular website used for finding care for elderly relatives, babysitters, housekeeping, and even pet care. “It’s just very sad,” Elizabeth said through tears. “The caregiver was really a good friend of ours and really somebody that our parents depended on.”
“Our parents are good people. Andrew’s dad is a Vietnam veteran. His mom was a teacher. And they’re just such loving people. This house that we are living in, they have opened it up again and again to people who need help, to college students, to exchange students. The fact that somebody would take advantage of them like this is just heartbreaking.”
The caregiver depleted their credit cards and retirement accounts
Care.com tells TODAY that it always recommends a background check, interviews, and reference checks of any potential caregiver, but they don’t do that professionally on their own end. It was April 2019 when Andrew took a look at his father’s personal finances to plan for the future when he noticed the account was depleted.
“The moment where I laid eyes on his account is something I’ll never forget,” he recalls. “His debit card had been used for eyelash extension appointments, tanning appointments, nail salons, an exercise place, Orange Theory, that he’s never stepped foot in. And I saw charge after charge after charge. And, honestly, I had to stop.”
This unfortunately is not uncommon
Elizabeth added that the caregiver had been using every single one of their credit cards and then began transferring money out of their retirement accounts as well. Other purchases she made included liposuction, breast augmentation, Botox, princess cruises, Disneyland tickets, and at least four used cars.
Sadly, this kind of situation is not uncommon. Billions of dollars are stolen from seniors every year, according to TODAY. The Department of Justice adds that this is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. TODAY adds some tips to avoid this kind of scam and how you can heed the warning when bringing caregivers into your home. This includes planning the monitoring of accounts in advance, having bank and brokerage statements sent to the family, and keeping personal information safe and secure.