The woman who had taken care of Edna Banks in her last six months of life was all hugs and tears at Banks' 2009 funeral, said her son, Greg.
About a month later, Greg and his brother got to work settling their mother's estate and noticed things weren't adding up. It quickly became apparent the woman who had been taking care of their mother had been stealing from her.
"She wrote herself extra paychecks. She stole jewelry," Banks said. "My brother and I look at each other like, 'Wait, who steals from a 78-year-old woman dying of cancer? Are you nuts?' Like, who does that?"
Banks spent the months after the theft researching elderly financial abuse, discovering it is a pandemic. Inspired, Banks in late 2009 established his own caregiving organization, the Egg Harbor Township-based Angel Alliance Caretakers.
Banks and his staff of caregivers and certified home-health aids serve clients throughout Atlantic and Cape May counties.
What sets Banks' business apart, he said, is an emphasis on teaching his clients how to defend themselves from financial abuse.
"Some people have gotten into the business because they've had caregivers come and they had a great experience," said Banks, who lives in Galloway Township. "They're a little naive to the dark side of it, so I can come in and say, 'Look, this is what can happen. This is what happens. This is what you need to be on the lookout for.'"
Banks has gotten his wife, Phebe, and his daughter, Rebecca, involved in the company. The pair split time providing round-the-clock care to a 52-year-old person with Down syndrome who lives alone in her Absecon home.
Rebecca said she has found the work very rewarding.
"Just helping other people, making them happy, letting them know you're there for them, helping out," Banks said. "You show you care. You're not just there because it's your job. You actually care."
Estimates suggest elder financial abuse is one of if not the most common crime perpetrated against Americans 65 and older. According to a 2009 study by MetLife, estimates suggest about $2.6 billion is stolen annually from elder victims of financial abuse. It is believed about four in five cases of financial abuse go unreported, meaning the real number may be much higher.
In addition to running Angel Alliance Caregivers, Greg has spent the past three years traveling around South Jersey, sharing his story and dispensing advice through a seminar he calls Broken Trust: Responding to Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation.
He has given his talk at Richard Stockton College, Shore Medical Center, libraries and other venues.
"Every time I get done with these things, someone comes up to me afterwards," Banks said. "I'm usually talking to someone and two people are waiting to tell me their story. It's very, very prevalent."
Banks is writing a book, "The Silent Shame of Elder Abuse," which he expects to be published in mid-2013. He has no seminars scheduled but said he is willing to speak at any venue, free of charge.
For more information on Angel Alliance Caregivers or to speak with Banks about his seminar, visit the company online at angelalliancecaregivers.com or call 609-645-2643.
Contact Braden Campbell: