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News Release

CLERK BOCK ANNOUNCES NEW HOTLINE TO REPORT GUARDIANSHIP FRAUD

Service is the first of its kind in Palm Beach County

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (September 12, 2011) – Clerk Sharon Bock is proud to announce the launch of a new hotline designed to protect Palm Beach County’s most vulnerable residents from financial harm.

The Guardianship Fraud Hotline is the first of its kind in Palm Beach County and among the first in Florida. The hotline was created in anticipation of an increase in guardianship cases and the need to investigate claims of fraud, waste and mismanagement by court-appointed guardians for elderly, minor children or incapacitated individuals.

As Palm Beach County’s senior citizen population grows, the number of guardianship cases is expected to increase by 15 percent, or 400 cases, a year. The 2010 Census shows that Palm Beach County has Florida’s highest population of residents older than 85 – an increase of nearly 41 percent since 2000.

That increase prompted Clerk Bock last year to seek out an auditor to specialize in guardianship audits and charge her Division of Inspector General to handle such investigations.
“We believe there is a need for these services, and that demand will only increase as Palm Beach County’s senior population continues to grow,” Clerk Bock said. “This hotline will enhance the Division of Inspector General's ability to identify potential problems and instances of fraud in guardianship cases.”

Anyone who suspects a guardian, family member, attorney or caregiver of improper activities such as stealing money from a ward’s account, selling off a ward’s property or making suspicious loans or money transfers is urged to call (561) 355-FRAUD (355-3728). Reports also can be made by e-mail to fraud@mypalmbeachclerk.com, or online through the Clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page, at www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/fraud.

Those reporting suspicious activities are not required to provide personal information and can remain anonymous. The Clerk’s Division of Inspector General will investigate all claims of guardianship fraud, make recommendations and notify the court if any inappropriate activity is found. The office also will refer cases to law enforcement for additional actions if necessary.

“When someone is appointed as a guardian, they are supposed to look out for the best interests of their ward,” Clerk Bock said. “Unfortunately, there are cases where guardians abuse their power and take advantage of the elderly and children. Now, people have a way to report these cases for investigation by our skilled team of auditors.”

The Clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page includes information about the different types of fraud, how to file a report of suspected abuse, links to frequently asked questions about guardianship fraud and to other resources for reporting physical abuse or neglect of children and the elderly.

For more information about the Clerk’s office, please visit www.mypalmbeachclerk.com or call (561) 355-2996.

The Florida Constitution established the independent office of the Clerk & Comptroller as a public trustee, responsible for safeguarding public records and public funds. Clerk Sharon Bock is directly elected by and accountable to Palm Beach County residents.  In addition to the roles of Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Recorder and Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, the Clerk & Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Auditor for Palm Beach County.

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