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"It's Not Your Money - It's a Crime!"

It's Everyone's Business Campaign Works against Financial Exploitation

John Oatman and Cindy Chumley
John Oatman and his Adult Protective Services
Caseworker, Cindy Chumley

In the 96 years of his life, John Oatman of Austin has experienced a lot. But in 2008, he came face-to-face with something he never imagined—having money stolen from him by people he trusted the most.

In April 2008, Oatman discovered that a woman caring for him through a home health agency had used one of his credit cards to make a couple dozen purchases totalling $1,300. He called the police and they contacted Adult Protective Services (APS). The two agencies worked together and when their investigation was over, they discovered three agency workers racked up more than $40,000 on Oatman's accounts. One of the caregivers was even accused of buying three cars in Oatman's name.

“I’ve never had any problems with the workers,” says Oatman. “I’ve always been honest with people. And now I’m a victim and feel cheated.”

APS, a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, is partnering with banks committed to educating their employees and customers about financial exploitation of the elderly and people with disabilities.

Starting this month, financial institutions across Texas are hanging APS posters in offices to educate their employees on the signs of exploitation, such as:

  • Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices.
  • Unexplained or unexpected withdrawal of large sums of money.
  • Adding names to an elderly or disabled person’s bank signature card.
  • Unfamiliar people accompanying bank customers to withdraw large sums.
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of funds using ATM card or sudden transfers of assets.
  • Sudden changes in financial document.
  • Unpaid bills despite having adequate money.
  • Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to a person’s affairs and possessions.
  • Abuse of power of attorney.

 
Participating banks will also host APS displays and distribute APS brochures to customers to educate them about financial exploitation. The brochures provide tips on how Texans can protect themselves from exploitation and some clear examples of exploitation. The posters and the brochures are available for download on this web site.

“Everyone needs to understand that taking the money of an elderly parent or a person with disabilities is not okay,” says DFPS Assistant Commissioner Karl Urban. “We want people to realize that if it’s not their money, it’s financial exploitation and it’s a crime. If you suspect exploitation, call 1-800-252-5400 and file a report so APS and law enforcement can investigate.”

Cindy Chumley, the APS investigator who is working on Oatman’s case, said some of her clients have no one they can count on. “That’s when we step in. It's so sad because these are individuals who depend on others for their care, and in a lot of the cases, they are like family.”

Chumley said she and her counterpart at the Austin Police Department are diligent in investigating cases like this. “It takes special attention to work exploitation cases like this appropriately.”

                                                                                                                                                                   
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