Salem – Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation is reminding people to help senior citizens be on guard for financial exploitation.

Increased isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed seniors to increased risk of financial scams.

“Social isolation is one of the leading factors for financial exploitation of older investors,” said Lou Savage, acting administrator for the division. “The extended quarantine to protect against the spread of the coronavirus has left many Oregon seniors vulnerable to financial fraud.”

Financial abuse can happen any time, but perpetrators often use times of seclusion to strike, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. They will often gather personal information from obituaries and social media to target their victims. Many schemes involve using fake information to build trust with seniors and get more involved in their lives.

Senior financial exploitation is difficult to identify. Here are five examples to watch for:

  • A new and overly protective friend or caregiver, especially if the senior is considering surrendering financial control to the person.
  • Fear of or sudden change in feelings about somebody.
  • A lack of knowledge about financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters.
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust, or beneficiary designation.
  • Unexplained checks made out to cash, unexplained loans, or unexplained disappearance of assets (cash, valuables, securities, etc.). Also, watch for suspicious signatures on the senior’s checks or other documents.

If you believe a senior you know or love is a target, remember three things:

  • Contact – Stay in touch with older family members, friends, and neighbors. Call or leave a note on their front door. It is essential for them to know you are thinking of them.
  • Inform – Make sure the older people in your life understand that fraudsters are using the pandemic to exploit them. You can share the division’s information about coronavirus scams and its tips to keep seniors safe from fraud.
  • Act – Contact the division’s advocacy team one of three ways to report scams and potential senior financial exploitation:

Finally, financial services professionals are mandatory reporters for suspected elder financial abuse in Oregon. Agents, advisors, broker-dealers, and representatives can request a Senior $afe presentation to learn how to spot and report suspected elder fraud. They can also file a suspected financial abuse report on the division’s website.