SARASOTA - The Craigslist ad for Lisa's Errand Services begins simply, "I can do many services." It goes on to offer help with picking up dry cleaning, cooking, shopping, and transportation to doctor's appointments. It directs you to call Lisa Redmond and ends, "Thank you and God bless."
It omits that in April, a judge gave Redmond probation for stealing from a 94-year-old woman for whom she worked. Police say that Redmond had used her client's credit card to make purchases totalling $15,000. The victim's daughter discovered the fraud when she reviewed her mother's financial statements during a visit to Florida. The victim and her daughter both suspected Redmond, who had worked for the victim for three years.
"The person in the home has access to a person's resources -- credit cards, valuables, money -- even the person's medications," says Kathy Black, a Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar and professor at USF Sarasota Manatee. This case illustrates the care needed when hiring people to work in one's home, and Black suggests using an agency. "If you hire somebody independently, chances are you're not doing a full background check on that person," she says. "An agency will be licensed, insured, and bonded."
It will cost more to use an agency, and the difference in price can appeal to people who live on fixed incomes, but "is it worth the cost to you to have someone who has not been thoroughly vetted?" Black asks. "Abuse of people living in their home is a growing and serious problem, not only in this community, but in the entire nation," Black says of what some have dubbed the crime of the century.
Some people pose as workers specifically to put themselves in position to gain someone's trust. In other cases, the thefts are crimes of opportunity. Either way, Black says, "that's what you're opening yourself up to when you have people in your home." Some have pushed for tougher punishments for people who target the elderly, just as some crimes against children carry stiffer sentences than those committed against adults.