Shostocka Keya Ward was sentenced in federal court in Alabama to four years and nine months in prison following her conviction of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft related to Ward’s victimizing of an elderly dementia patient at the Galleria Woods senior living center where Ward was employed. The victim had no immediate family, received few regular visitors and had a family friend who did not live nearby acting as her agent under a Durable Power of Attorney thus making her a prime target for elder financial abuse and identity theft. While working at Galleria Woods, Ward befriended the victim and gradually started helping her with bill payments and other financial matters as well as run errands for her. Upon getting access to the victim’s checkbook debit card and credit cards, Ward exploited the victim’s decreasing mental abilities to steal more than $300,000 from her that Ward used to pay for her wedding, car payments, private school tuition payments and vacations.
The problem of identity theft and financial abuse of so many vulnerable elderly people is a huge problem. If you have an elderly family member who may be suffering from some mental decline, it is important to take a number of steps to protect them from being abused. One important thing to do is to physically secure financial records of the family member so that they are not easily accessible by the various caretakers with whom they may come into regular contact. It is also important to regularly monitor all of their financial accounts. You may wish to put two family members or friends on the elderly person’s accounts to be able to monitor the accounts and each other. Finally, there are companies, such as TrueLink which provide debit cards which can be customized to block certain types of transactions and set spending limits.