questions & answers
Question: What should I do if I suspect that my caregiver is stealing money from me? How can I prove that this is so?
If a person suspects that a caregiver is stealing money, he or she should call the Adult Protective Services (APS) 24-Hour Hotline toll free at 1-877-767-2385 or TDD at 1-877-815-8390. Many vulnerable adults are unaware that money has been stolen or are too embarrassed to make a report, but it is very important to make the call and get help as soon as possible to prevent further abuse. For more information, visit the Arizona Office of the Attorney General online and read "Elder Abuse: Potential Legal Remedies" and the "Top Ten Consumer Scams" informative guides. You can also contact the Area Agency on Aging 24 hour helpline at 1-888-264-2258 or TTY/TDD at 1-602-241-6110.
If a caregiver is hired to serve in a position of trust and confidence to an incapacitated or vulnerable adult, he or she is required to act prudently for the benefit of that person. This includes caregivers who are acting as guardians (or conservators in the management of estates). Under Arizona law, an incapacitated adult is someone who is suffering from some kind of an impairment that prevents the person from making or communicating well reasoned decisions about him or herself. The impairment could be caused by:
- a mental illness, deficiency, or disorder;
- physical illness or disability;
- advanced age;
- chronic use of drugs;
- chronic intoxication; or
- another cause that affects a person’s ability to make well informed decisions.
In addition, a vulnerable adult is one who is eighteen years of age or older and is unable to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect or exploitation by others because of a physical or mental impairment.
The law also covers financial exploitation (which means the illegal or improper use of an incapacitated or vulnerable adult or his or her resources for someone else’s profit or advantage). (A.R.S. §§ 46-451, 456). Financial exploitation is a form of theft covered under the criminal laws of Arizona. (A.R.S. § 13-1802). Generally, the person committing the theft knowlingly takes control, title, use or management of an incapacitated or vulnerable person’s assets or property through intimidation (such as threatening to take away food or medicine) or deception (creating false impressions or misrepresenting important facts), while acting in a position of trust and confidence, and with the intent to take the asset or property of the incapacitated or vulnerable adult. Depending upon the nature and value of the property or service stolen, the punishment for the crime can range from a class 2 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to criminal penalties, the victim of exploitation may file a civil action to recover damages (for the lost assets or property) that equal up to three times the amount of the actual loss. The court may award court costs and attorney fees to the victim. (A.R.S. § 46-456)
What should I do if I suspect that my caregiver is stealing money from me? How can I prove that this is so?
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State Bar of Arizona
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National Domestic Violence Hotline
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