The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is proud to support “National Senior Fraud Awareness Day,” which raises awareness about scams targeting our older communities.
Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Sam Leineweber is designated to handle some of the county’s toughest senior fraud and elder abuse cases to hold offenders accountable. Leineweber attends conferences and receives continuous training on this growing issue. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office works closely with Adult Protective Services, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau to investigate and prosecute people taking advantage of seniors.
“When a crime is committed against a child or a senior, our office is determined to hold the offender accountable,” Leineweber said. “These elder financial abuse cases are among some of the most atrocious we see. In some instances, the victim’s life savings will be wiped out as a result of a financial scam.”
Fraud against seniors can come in many different forms. The most common include Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonation scams, sweepstakes and lottery scams, grandparent scams, technology scams, romance scams, charity scams, home-improvement scams, and health care scams. Elder abuse can include financial exploitation, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, and sexual abuse.
“When it comes to financial abuse of an elder, we typically see it start with someone who has access to the victim’s bank account information,” said Leineweber. “That person can be a family member, a caregiver, or someone else in a position of trust. We’ve had cases of elder financial abuse go undetected for several years. The result of prolonged exploitation can have a devastating impact on a victim’s wellbeing and on their family. It’s such a violating act and the reality can be hard to cope with.”
As of July 1, 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Multnomah County had an estimated population of 807,555 people. The Bureau further reported 12.6% of our community is older than 65. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has estimates seniors lose a staggering $2.9 billion each year to an array of financial exploitation schemes and scams.
Under Oregon law, a person older than 65 is considered a vulnerable victim.
“Even though the law defines an age, we know anyone can become the victim of a scam at any age,” Leineweber said. “That’s why it’s important that as our parents and other loved ones start to age, we pay close attention to what’s happening in their lives. When something doesn’t seem right, there are multiple ways to report your suspicion of possible abuse or scams.”
Leineweber stressed the importance of timely reporting.
“Victims of financial crimes, especially older victims, may feel embarrassed to report what has happened to them to law enforcement but coming forward could prevent that suspect from taking advantage of someone else,” Leineweber said.
Another common crime Leineweber handles is when a family member, caretaker or someone else in a position of trust will steal a senior’s belongings and sell them for cash without permission. Leineweber said in one case, the family of a victim took meticulous notes and photos of her belongings prior to her moving into a care facility. When the family started to notice things were missing, authorities were contacted. Eventually, law enforcement was able to recover the property, which had been sold illegally at area pawn shops.
“Knowing what’s happening in the lives of our seniors is great defense to help prevent them from becoming victims of scams or other types of abuse,” Leineweber said. “Regular physical and mental health checkups are important to help prevent elder scams and abuse. If you suspect your family member is in physical danger, contact law enforcement immediately. If you suspect abuse talk to someone who can help such as, Adult Protective Services.”
- Multnomah County Adult Protective Services
- National Council on Aging
- Oregon Department of Justice Crime Victim and Survivor Services
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director