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Toolkit to protect seniors from financial exploitation


The Oregon Bankers Association and Oregon State Department of Human Services have partnered to prevent financial exploitation of Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens.

Together they have launched a new version of the toolkit, “Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation: How Banks Can Help.”

This resource will soon 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 and exploitation.

The kit includes a comprehensive training manual and DVD with example scenarios of financial exploitation. It is also available online at oregonbankers.com/community/elder-exploitation-prevention.

“Financial exploitation and abuse constitutes over 40 percent of DHS’s substantiated community abuse claims and is the number one form of adult abuse in Oregon,” said Marie Cervantes, director of DHS’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. We are delighted to partner with OBA on this project to protect vulnerable Oregonians from financial abuse.”

Cervantes said that while elder financial abuse is happening around the entire state, statistics are showing it was most prevalent last year in Multnomah, Jackson, Josephine, Coos and Curry counties.

“Elder financial exploitation is a significant problem affecting millions of seniors across the country,” said Linda Navarro, president and CEO of the Oregon Bankers Association. “Banks are in a unique position to spot potential financial abuse. We are committed to working with Adult Protective Services on this project and helping to ensure that Oregon seniors live safely and with dignity.”

According to Cervantes, statistics tell us the perpetrators of abuse are:

  • 55 percent family members
  • 19 percent friends and/or acquaintances
  • 18 percent non-relative caregivers
  • 1 percent professional con-artists
  • According to Navarro, OBA 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 Portland, Bend, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton and Salem.

    According to DHS, some of the warning signs for 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 APS annual report online at oregon.gov/DHS/abuse/pages/index.aspx.

    The OBA offers the following advice to seniors and all Oregonians protecting 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 write 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 can instead set up a separate account in both names with automatic transfer of limited funds.
  • Obtain and review your credit report on an annual basis. A free credit report can be obtained annually online at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228 and completing a verification process.