Financial abuse of Oregon's seniors on the rise

Family members largest group to steal from elderly

Seniors on High Desert face financial abuse

BEND, Ore. - You'd like to think you can always count on family and friends -- but if you're a senior, they could be the biggest threat to your wallet.

"Sometimes it's actually family members or friends or neighbors that are the perpetrators in the situation," Central Oregon Council on Aging Executive Officer Pamela Norr said Wednesday.

A new study released by the Oregon Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Education found nearly 3,000 seniors or disabled adults reported they'd been financially abused in 2011. That's up 33 percent from 2009.

More than half of the reported abusers were family members.

"That makes it really difficult," Norr said.  "It's hard to tell a senior who to trust and who to not."

The report also found daughters were the most frequent perpetrators.

The sticky situation often makes reporting abuse tougher -- mix that with technology, and Norr said she thinks the number of cases is actually much higher than what's reported.

"We have seen an increase in the need for education to our elders," she said.  "There's a lot more phone calls and Internet scams."

It's something local assisted living facilities also are battling.

"We've had the Bend Police Department come and speak to the residents," said Fox Hollow Independent and Assisted Living spokeswoman Katherine Bolster.  "We educate our staff at staff trainings on a regular basis with what to look for."

Norr said COCOA also provides resources to protect seniors, and is thinking about creating a new program.

"We're looking at starting a money management program, where we can help remove some of that (concern) from the seniors, so they feel more comfortable," Norr said.

So how can you protect your finances?

Experts say trust your gut -- and don't be afraid to ask for help.

"If something just doesn't feel right, call someone and say, 'Is this legitimate?' Before they answer it, respond to it or send a check somewhere," Norr said.

Bend police couldn't tell NewsChannel 21 Wednesday if senior abuse cases are growing locally, but they did share that the most common type of senior abuse is financial.

If you suspect you or someone you care about is being financially abused, you can contact COCOA at 541-678-5483 or Bend police at 541-322-2960.

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