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Toolkit helps protect seniors from financial exploitation

The Oregon Bankers Association and Department of Human Services have teamed up to prevent financial exploitation of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens: its seniors.

The two entities have released new version of a toolkit called “Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation: How Banks Can Help.” This resource soon will be in the hands of every bank doing business in Oregon, which means 20,000 bank employees will be better prepared to detect possible financial abuse.

The toolkit was unveiled last month in honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. It includes a training manual and DVD with example scenarios of financial exploitation. It also is available online at www.

oregonbankers.com/community/elder-exploitation-prevention.

“Financial exploitation and abuse constitutes over 40 percent of DHS’ substantiated community abuse claims “and is the No. 1 form of adult abuse in Oregon,” said Marie Cervantes, director of the agency’s Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations. “Bankers are key gatekeepers, the first line of defense and have a great impact on the ability to curb this problem.”

Cervantes said that while elder financial abuse occurs all over the state, statistics show it was most prevalent last year in Multnomah, Jackson, Josephine, Coos and Curry counties. Statistics show the perpetrators of abuse are:

Family members (55 percent).

Friends and acquaintances (19 percent).

Non-relative caregivers (18 percent).

Professional con-artists (1 percent).

The Oregon Bankers Association will hold a series of free “train the trainer” education sessions to teach bank supervisors and branch managers how to use the kit and effectively train bank employees to spot and stop potential elder financial abuse. The training sessions will take place later this year in the communities of Bend, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton, Portland and Salem.

The first version of the toolkit was issued in 1999, the result of a partnership between OBA, DHS, AARP and the Oregon Department of Justice. The newly released and updated version marks its fourth edition.

According to DHS, the warning signs of financial exploitation include:

Unusual or inappropriate activity surrounding investment properties or in bank accounts, including the use of ATM cards, to make large or repeated withdrawals.

Signatures on checks, etc. that do not resemble the person’s signature, or signatures when the person cannot write.

Power of attorney given, or recent changes in or creation of a will or trust, when the person is incapable of making such decisions.

Unpaid bills, overdue rent, utility shut-off notices.

Excessive spending by a caregiver on himself for new clothing, jewelry, automobiles.

Lack of spending on the care of the person, including personal grooming items.

Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware or jewelry.

Recent sale of assets and properties.

For more information on financial exploitation, view the DHS report online at www.oregon.gov/DHS/abuse/pages/index.aspx.

Protect your money

The Oregon Business Association offers the following advice on how all Oregonians can protect their hard-earned dollars:

* Review your bank statements in a timely matter.

* Use direct deposit for your checks if possible.

* Do not leave money or valuables in plain view.

* Sign your own checks. Do not sign “blank checks” where another person can ll in the amount or the recipient name. If you need someone to help you write out checks before you sign, ask a third party to review the check and take it to the bank.

* If someone is helping you with managing your finances, get a trusted third person to review your bank statement.

* Do not sign any document without reading it carefully.

* Do not sign any agreement until a trusted friend, other adviser or an attorney has reviewed it. If possible, have two advisers review the agreement.

* Do not lend money in return for a general promissory note.

* Do not sign over money or property to anyone in return for care, even a family member or friend, without having the agreement reviewed by an attorney. The agreement must be written. Give someone else a copy.

* Safeguard your ATM, debit and credit cards. Notify your bank immediately if one is missing.

* Do not give out card information over the telephone unless it is to someone with whom you regularly do business.

* Do not allow anyone, even a relative, to put his or her name on your account without your express consent. Your bank instead can set up a separate account in both names with automatic transfer of limited funds.

* Obtain and review your credit report every year. A free credit report can be obtained annually online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.