A study conducted by the Oregon Department of Human Services Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations showed that financial exploitation of the elderly is common.
According to the DHS report, financial exploitation of the elderly takes shape in many forms including theft of money, medications, jewelry, real estate, and food stamp benefits.The study showed that money was stolen most, totaling 60 percent of reported thefts.
“For many of our vulnerable adults that are exploited this can mean years of hard work, money to pay basic living essentials such as food and electricity, and hopes for their future security are gone,” Marie Cervantes, director of the Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations. “Collectively, the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults deserves our attention.”
Lane County contributed to 7 percent of the state’s finance exploitation cases, while 9.9 percent of Oregon’s elderly population (65+ years old) resides in Lane County.
DHS Operations and Policy Analyst Rebecca Fetters said there are red flags that concerned friends and family members, as well as the elderly themselves, should watch for:
• Unusual bank or credit activity.
• Use of ATM in an out-of-the-way location. If the person’s mobility is limited any use of an ATM could be a red flag.
• Any changes to ownership on property titles, vehicle titles and changes to estate plans such as their will or beneficiary designations.
• The elderly are not getting their bills directly.
• Utilities being shut off or a notice to vacate their residence.
• Caregivers or housekeepers are not showing up could be a sign that they are not being paid.
• New loans.
• A change in someone’s usual pattern of activity.
“The less isolated people are and the more people are watching for those red flags the better,” Fetters said.
According to a DHS, release 55 percent of the perpetrators were family members. The report showed that the most commonly alleged perpetrators were daughters of the elderly at 38 percent, with sons trailing closely at 36 percent.
Acquaintances (44 percent) and caregivers (42 percent) made up the majority of alleged perpetrators in the non-family members category.
The DHS report says that OAAPI will be working to combat financial exploitation of the elderly by doing the following:
• Providing outreach to district attorney’s and local law enforcement, and in related cases.
• Collaborate with Oregon Health Authority’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to address medication theft issues.
• Work with the Oregon Credit Union Association raise awareness about financial exploitation.
• Produce materials targeted at families to inform them of their fiduciary responsibilities should they be appointed a power of attorney, a trustee, or another type of decision maker over their family members estate.
• Increase training for non-relative caregivers on what constitutes financial exploitation and the consequences.