Earlier this year, Christy Kinney was recovering from surgery when she received a bill in the mail for a credit card she didn’t remember that she had. The bill racked up over $8,000 in charges Kinney had never made.
“I was like, what?” Kinney recalls. “I was shocked.”
While Kinney should have been resting from her surgery, she got busy on the phone. She called the credit card company to report that someone else had been using her credit card and asked them to halt future charges. Then she called the credit companies to report that she was a victim of credit card theft. She also called the Santa Clara Police Department.
“The Santa Clara Police Department sent out Officer Tom Gratny,” Kinney says. “I showed him the bill and pointed out two unique charges- one was from a dental office, and the second one was at an auto repair shop. Gratny and I figured this wasn’t the first time [the thief] had gone to the dentist. The dentist and auto mechanic would know who this person is.”
According to Kinney, Officer Gratny called the dentist and auto repair shop. Both the dentist and auto mechanic had the name of the person who used her card. Then Officer Gratny called Kinney and asked if she knew someone by that name. “I found out she had gotten my new card when I had gotten another operation back in fall of 2010,” Kinney says. “She activated the card from my own home.”
Kinney’s card was actually stolen by an employee in her home, someone Kinney had hired to help her manage her files and perform other administrative duties. Because Kinney had also considered this individual to be a friend, knowledge of the betrayal was devastating.
“So Officer Gratny and Sergeant Patrick Akank, both went to the woman’s home and knocked on the door and started asking her about the whole thing,” Kinney continues. “She went into a bogus story with them. But she finally confessed. I must praise the officer and the detective for their work in solving this in four days.”
Kinney says the culprit was charged with identity theft and elder abuse, being that Kinney is a member of the senior community.
Kristina Cunningham, manager of Adult Protective Services for the County of Santa Clara, offers some tips for seniors who feel they have been victims of financial fraud.
“The first thing people [who have been victims of financial fraud] should do is to contact their credit card company or their bank so they can get the best advice from that institution,” Cunningham says. “They can also do a police report- the police may or may not file a report.”
Obviously, elder abuse can extend beyond financial fraud. It can also include neglect, physical assault, abandonment, and other abuses. Cunningham provides numbers victims of all forms of elder abuse can call for social services: (408) 975-4900 AND 1 (800) 414-2002.
“They can call the number and someone will be there to answer the phone 24/7,” Cunningham says. “Everything is confidential. The first person to answer the phone would decide whether this caller goes to an intake social worker or whether the caller just needs information. The intake social worker would take the report and ask questions and assess the urgency. That report is given to the supervisor and manager who make the assignments. We will decipher what the best approach is.”