West Central Vulnerable Adult Coalition recognizing Elder Abuse Awareness Day by highlighting available resources

BISMARCK, N.D. - In 2016, the North Dakota Department of Human Services received more than 1,700 calls to report abuse neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, mainly senior citizens.

That's nearly five reports every day.

The West Central Vulnerable Adult Coalition is partnering with law enforcement and advocacy groups to make sure people know that services are available if they think they're being taken advantage of, or see someone else being abused.

North Dakotans' famously good manners are something scammers use to their advantage.

"This kind of activity does happen in North Dakota, and even in our smallest communities," said Bill Willis, Aging Services Division.

"While North Dakota nice makes us a great state, it also creates a lot of vulnerability, especially to seniors," said Tonya Hetzler, Consumer Protection Division.

Officials say if you think you're being scammed, hang up the phone immediately.

"Just hang up. I plead with people. And I always say, I give you permission. If that's what you need, I give you permission to hang up the phone," said Hetzler.

Officials say scammers are getting more sophisticated, including sending taxis to people's houses and having them change their phone numbers.

"They'll do anything with no regard to what consequences will be for that adult," said Willis.

Willis praised the legislature for requiring many different people to report exploitation when they see it, but the adults themselves are the first line of defense.

"They need to talk about it. They need to talk with someone they trust, whether it's a friend or family member, local law enforcement, the consumer protection division, they need to know that there are resources," said Hetzler.

Officials hope those resources will help reverse the increasing trend of abuse.

Tuesday evening at 6:30 in Dykeshorn Park in Mandan, the coalition is putting on a presentation to recognize recognizing Elder Abuse Awareness Day in conjunction with the musicians association's summer concert series.

Law enforcement, state government offices and advocacy groups will put on presentations as well as provide information on how people can stay safe, avoid being scammed, and access intervention services.

For more information on vulnerable adult services, you can go to: http://www.nd.gov/dhs/services/adultsaging/vulnerable.html