North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Take Care to Prevent Caregiver Fraud

8/14/2014

By Attorney General Roy Cooper
 
Caring for an aging family member can be emotionally and financially draining.  Many North Carolinians turn to in-home health caregivers to help care for senior loved ones in their homes. 
 
These caregivers provide one-on-one assistance while relieving some of the strain on the family.  While there are many well qualified and caring in-home health workers, some may lack important qualifications or even pose as caregivers to try to scam seniors.  For example, this past June an in-home caregiver in Arizona was accused of forging $917,000 worth of checks from her elderly client’s account. 
 
Caregivers can work for an agency or work independently. They are often found through a home care company, friends’ suggestions, your place of worship, or ads. No matter how you find them, make sure you screen applicants carefully. 
 
To find the best caregiver for your loved one:

  • Find out about their education, training and experience.  For example, ask if they are CPR trained and/or are a licensed nurse or nursing assistant.
  • Request references and check them.
  • Ask if you can conduct a probationary period with the caregiver. 
  • If the caregiver is independent,
  • Do a criminal background check.
  • Check with an accountant about tax issues.
  • Draft a written agreement for both you and the caregiver to sign.  It should include what you’ll pay, when you’ll pay it, what hours the caregiver is expected to work, their duties, and what to do if the caregiver cannot work at the scheduled time. Keep a copy for your records.
  • If the caregiver works for  an agency,
  • Check if the agency has a copy of their criminal background.  If not, conduct a background check yourself. 
  • Learn whether the agency is bonded and insured in case of an accident.
  • Determine what the agency will do if your caregiver cannot come to work one day.  Will they send another employee? Ask if you can meet potential back-up caregivers.
  • Review all paperwork carefully before you sign it and ask questions about anything that isn’t clear. Keep a copy for your records.
 
Once you’ve hired a caregiver, take steps to protect your loved one against theft and fraud.  Locking up valuables around the house may be obvious, but there is also a risk of identity theft.  To help protect your loved one’s identity and finances from being compromised by a shady caregiver:
  • Don’t let in-home health providers manage mail or medical paperwork.
  • Have important mail sent to a different address such as a your own or another close family member’s.
  • Consider a security freeze on your loved one’s credit. It will freeze an un-trustworthy caregiver’s ability to open a new account in your family member’s name.
  • Require receipts for all purchases made for your family member and/or with your family member’s money.
 
If you believe that a caregiver may have scammed or stolen from your loved one, contact local law enforcement immediately. If you have other concerns about a caregiver, contact the NC Division of Health Service Regulation at 1-800-634-3004 or 919-855-4500 or your local Department of Social Services.  For more tips on protecting seniors from fraud, visit our website at ncdoj.gov or call our Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.