July 20, 2018

L.A. Woman Helps in Fight Against Elder Abuse


Liz Sanders of Woodland Hills has never been to the State Capitol before, but after her elderly mother was fleeced by her live-in caregiver, she knew she had to take action. She flew to Sacramento to testify in support of a bill authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) that imposes new regulations for the issuance of so called “signature stamps.”

“This $20 signature stamp cost my mother three-quarters of a million dollars and left her in financial ruin,” testified Sanders. “This has been heartbreaking and I don’t want any other family to have to go through this.”

Banks issue signature stamps to elderly or disabled adults who are unable to physically get to a banking branch. Senator Pavley’s SB 586 would create a new framework for the issuance of these signature stamps, including requiring that a bank employee witness and sign all requests for new signature stamps. Customers would also be given information on the risks associated the misuse of the stamps. The bill would also increase the penalties for physical and financial elder abuse.

“The physical and financial abuse of elder and dependent adults is an insidious and growing problem in California,” said Senator Pavley. “This bill establishes some basic and common sense protections of one particular financial instrument that can be easily used to drain vast sums of money and assets.”

Sanders’ mother, Bette Isenberg of Westwood, died at the age of 82 last August. Prior to her death she was bedridden and needed constant care. Sanders said her mother’s caregiver used a signature stamp to cash checks, drain her bank account and access her life insurance fund. “She used the stamp to add herself to my mother’s Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue accounts by simply faxing over a letter that was signed with this stamp,” said Sanders. “She proceeded to charge over $80,000 on dormant accounts.”

Isenberg’s caregiver, Helen Wofford, was convicted and sentenced to 32 months in prison in the case, but Sanders said there are other predatory caregivers out there. “They gain someone like my mother’s trust, and then they ruin their lives,” she said.

“We’re not doing enough to protect this vulnerable population,” said Senator Pavley. “This bill is a good beginning.”

SB 586, sponsored by AARP and the California Senior Legislature, passed out of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and heads to the Senate Public Safety Committee.

“I’m thrilled,” said Sanders. “We are one step closer to protecting families from financial devastation."