Department of Aging launches investigative unit to help combat financial abuse of older people

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Continuing its work to address and prevent one of the fastest growing forms of elder abuse, the Department of Aging announced the creation of a dedicated investigation unit to assist regional agencies on aging (AAA) to investigate complex cases of financial abuse and seek justice for seniors. Pennsylvanians.

The Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is a four-person unit consisting of an analyst/supervisor, two analysts and an attorney to assist the aging network over the next two years. The creation of FAST evolved from a pilot program that began with the hiring of David Aiello, a retired state trooper specializing in financial abuse investigations, who served as a shared resource for the AAA network over the past two years. The department has secured $666,000 in federal grants to expand the capacity of this program over the next two years.

“Based on a sample of 22 cases where we exercised enhanced coordination and early intervention, nearly $3 million in assets were protected from further exploitation. ‘expand this model and build capacity to better support AAAs on these cases and get the justice victims deserve,” Aging Secretary Robert Torres said. “This FAST unit will be available to help both investigate and resolving cases of financial abuse. She will also work to build or strengthen relationships with law enforcement to bring justice to elderly victims and mitigate harm as quickly as possible.”

Financial abuse ranks among the top three types of elder abuse reported to the ministry. This may take the form of theft of property, misuse of income or assets, misuse of power of attorney; or scams of many types, including medical emergencies, contractors, grandchild imposters, Social Security or IRS, fake charities, gift card scams, pension poaching and more Again.

“Using specialized software, FAST analysts ‘track the money’ to help field investigators, law enforcement and our own Elder Justice attorney determine what happened to victims’ property. Our attorney, in turn, will fight to recover the stolen property and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said FAST Supervisor David Aiello.

The FAST Investigation Unit training is an extension of PDA’s ongoing work in protecting the elderly and preventing financial abuse. The department conducted a study on the impact of financial exploitation of older Pennsylvanians, in accordance with the guidelines of Governor Tom Wolf’s 2019 Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Populations. The study examined several hundred substantiated financial abuse cases reviewed by 10 local AAAs, covering 14 counties in Pennsylvania. The average financial loss for each victim in the study was nearly $40,000, totaling nearly $12.5 million in the cases examined in the study alone. The study acknowledged that many of these cases go unreported, so the extent of losses due to financial abuse is likely much higher.

“Among the many types of elder abuse investigated by AAA, cases of financial abuse require unique skills and training. The FAST Investigative Unit gives the AAA Network access to resources that enhance the work already done by creating a mechanism to help seniors with the potential to recover lost assets,” said Steve Williamson, executive director of the Blair County Agency on Aging, which hosts FAST.

In addition to team members from FAST Protective Services and the Department of Aging, Sec. Torres was joined by representatives from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Departments of Banking and Securities and Military and Veterans Affairs, who each shared their department’s efforts to combating financial abuse in its many forms.

The Department of Aging recently unveiled a financial abuse webpage that contains information for seniors, caregivers and other aging professionals about warning signs, preventative measures and an expanding menu of resources on key topics such as banking and finance, legal services and dementia. Coming soon are short educational videos from experts explaining financial abuse topics in everyday terms.

The department also launched a new online Elder Abuse Awareness Training that is available to Commonwealth, aging and social service workers across the Pennsylvania Aging Network and the public. The training has been developed to reach a wide audience and covers the four main types of abuse and how to recognize them; the signs to look out for, the differences between mandatory and voluntary reports of abuse, when and how to report, and more. The training lasts about 20 minutes.

The training is available on the PDA Learning Management System (LMS).

Anyone suspecting elder abuse should call the statewide reporting hotline at 1-800-490-8505, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Learn more about the programs and services offered by the Aging Service by visiting the service’s website and on the service’s Facebook page.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Gray, Jack Eilber : [email protected]

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