SAN ANTONIO - Bob Pressley, 82, was grieving the loss of his wife and recovering from surgery last year when family and police discovered tens of thousands of dollars had been drained from his financial accounts.
Police arrested and charged three people with credit card abuse, including his caretaker, Deborah Ann Miller. She is awaiting trial.
Pressley is only one of 1,187 Texas victims last year of what's called financial exploitation of the elderly.
"I don't think people realize how often it happens, and it happens in their own home," said Mary Walker, with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Professionals who work with elderly gathered Friday at St. Anthony of Paduo Catholic Church to learn more about the growing crime, one often committed by trusted relatives or caregivers.
"A lot of these people don't have family, or family lives out of state. And so this caregiver is their lifeline who may take them to the bank and know their PIN number for their card," said SAPD Detective Robert Sholund.
He is one of two detectives dedicated to a task force that targets such crimes which can include credit card abuse, forgery, identity theft and misapplication of funds by a guardian.
"It's shocking to see how people, who in most cases are in a trusted capacity for their victims, are just exploiting them and taking advantage of them at will," he said.
Often the victims have no idea they are being ripped off.
So the Texas Adult Protective Services is encouraging Texans to make it their business to protect vulnerable people.
"We want everyone to watch out for sings of financial exploitation," said Beth Engelking, assistant commissioner for Adult Protective Services.
Warning signs include sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, names added to someone's bank signature card, unfamiliar people accompanying the elder to the bank, unauthorized withdrawals from the ATM and bills going unpaid, even though the person has enough money.
Anyone who suspects exploitation can report it online at www.TxAbuseHotline.org or call 1-800-252-5400.
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