Financial exploitation of seniors difficult to prove

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Page Giacin became suspicious of the man who was taking care of her terminally ill father last summer. The caretaker was a cowboy the family had known for years, a cowboy Giacin's father, Don Steinman, did not always agree with. But because Giacin and her brother lived far away from their father's Arizona ranch, they understood why Steinman had chosen the cowboy.

Steinman died in August, at around the same time Giacin's stepmother, Barbara, was diagnosed with cancer. The cowboy, whose name we are not disclosing because he is not charged with any wrongdoing, stuck around to take care of Barbara.

"She told me she was scared of being alone and he was willing to stay," Giacin said.

Barbara Steinman died in January. Giacin learned that Barbara had written a will before she died and left the ranch to the cowboy. Now, Giacin and her brother had hoped to keep their father's property in the family for generations.

"This was his legacy to his grandchildren, to all of us," Giacin said. "He's buried on the land. In order to visit the grave, I have to be able to go onto the property."

What caused Don and Barbara Steinman to leave the property to their caretaker is unknown. The attorney who created the latest will told CBS 5 Investigates that Barbara Steinman visited his office in October and appeared competent.

Investigators said it is often difficult to tell the difference between a gift to a caretaker or family member and financial exploitation.

"The experts in the field call it the crime of the 21st century," said Karen Stegenga, who recently retired from her position as a crime prevention officer with the Mesa Police Department. She focused on fraud against the elderly.

She said some studies show as many as one in six senior citizens is targeted. Ninety percent of the time, the perpetrator knows the victim. Often it is a close friend or family member. That makes victims reluctant to call police.

"They don't report because of the reasons, the fear," Stegenga said. "Plus, you're dealing with family members that, now, they have to have them arrested."

Stegenga said it's important for senior citizens to have an estate plan in place and for family members to watch out for new friends and changes in behavior, which could include becoming more reserved and removed from regular routines.

You can find more information how to spot financial exploitation of adults here.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards , two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Last fall, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle, in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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