BROADWAY — A local married couple took advantage of a 99-year-old World War II veteran by stealing about $2,500 from him when they would assist him with his grocery shopping, authorities said Wednesday.

Susan and Jim Taylor each plead guilty in April to elder abuse by a caregiver and received probation and were ordered to pay restitution, stated a Santa Monica Police Department press release.

The victim met Susan Taylor in October 2012 outside of a Vons grocery store located at 710 Broadway. She was most likely panhandling, said SMPD spokesman Sgt. Richard Lewis. The victim felt sorry for her and offered to pay $20 for helping him shop from then on, which she accepted.

Once the victim’s health began to deteriorate he needed help driving to the store, which Jim Taylor took on as his responsibility since his wife could not drive.

Lewis added that the couple lived a few blocks away from the victim.

As the Taylors assisted the elderly victim with his transportation and shopping needs, the victim entrusted Jim Taylor with his debit card and pin number.

The victim would authorize one of the two to withdraw $200 for groceries, but they would take out an additional $100 for themselves. The couple would reportedly yell at the victim when questioned about the extra funds. The victim finally contacted authorities, who approached the couple April 9, 2013.

In total investigators found at least 25 unauthorized withdrawals from the victim’s account.

Molly Davies, vice president of Elder Abuse Prevention and Ombudsman Services at WISE & Healthy Aging, a nonprofit that provides services for seniors, said this kind of elder abuse is unfortunately a common occurrence.

“Although it’s common I am always shocked at how people will take advantage of our seniors,” Davies said.

She added that the extended time the couple took to steal the victim’s money is a recurring feature of scams.

“Scam artists really take their time with seniors and fill a need,” Davies said.

To prevent a run-in with caregivers like the Taylors, Davies recommended seniors find vetted assistance through a trusted source and agencies like WISE as well as staying connected with relatives or community networks. Studies have proven that elders who are socially isolated are more perceptible to abuse and scams, Davies said.

Even with a trustworthy caregiver, Davies recommended that seniors keep confidential documents hidden somewhere secure to prevent any identity theft from caregivers — especially given that identify theft is one of the more common forms of elder abuse.

Though the veteran met the Taylors in person, Davies said that a lot of seniors are solicited over the phone and by e-mail, often told that Medicare and Medicaid programs are requesting their Social Security number or some other confidential information. Seniors should keep in mind that if they are registered with these programs this information is already logged in, Davies said.

Davies also urged seniors not to feel rude or bad about hanging up on a scam artist and that if something sounds too good to be true it most likely is. A frequent example is a phone call alerting a senior that she won the lottery and needs to send in a couple thousand dollars to cover taxes.

For additional preventative tips and resources, Davies recommended seniors visit or contact WISE & Healthy Aging at (310) 394-9871, which provides consumer education for the elderly as well as education for those in charge of responding to cases of elderly abuse, including social workers and law enforcement.

 

editor@smdp.com