CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Exploit – the illegal or improper use of assets or finances for personal gain.
October is Financial Exploitation Awareness Month. These types of cases are very underreported, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services officials said.
TDFPS now has three investigative units that tackle this sort of crime. They are based in Houston, Dallas, and the southern region of the state – from San Antonio to the border.
Between April and August, the South Texas unit identified $2.5 million in exploited assets.
Jessica Zuniga, an adult protective services specialist who focuses on elderly exploitation, visits victims at their homes.
Her caseload is at about 20 and involves money concerns of $5,000 or more.
“Our vulnerable with capacity issues, cognitive impairments, that’s where we see the most exploitation taking place. It’s with those clients,” she said.
One case that stands out to her involves a mother and daughter.
“The daughter was misusing Zuniga's funds and she was on the point of eviction because she didn’t have the money to pay for her rent,” she said.
At the end of it all, Zuniga helped the woman stay in her home and got her someone to help manage her finances.
This crime is known to be committed by caregivers, family members and complete strangers. People who believe this is happening to them or someone they know can call the statewide intake hotline: 1-800-252-5400.
TDFPS officials are scheduled to host a free presentation on exploitation in Corpus Christi, Oct. 18 at the Zavala Senior Center from 8:45-11:25 a.m.