Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres speaks to reporters from the Capitol Media Center on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022 about the launch of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).
State officials announced Wednesday that a new investigative team will be tasked with preventing, identifying, and mitigating financial abuse and exploitation of older Pennsylvanians.
The four-person unit known as the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), will be under the purview of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, and consists of an analyst/supervisor, two analysts, and an attorney. FAST is funded for the next two years using $666,000 in federal grant funding.
FAST evolved from a pilot program launched in 2020 that saw the department hire David Aiello, a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper with expertise in financial exploitation investigations, to serve as “a shared resource” for Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging.
“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. Given these results, we decided to expand this model and build more capacity to better support AAAs on these cases and get the justice that victims deserve,” Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres said.
“This FAST unit will be available to assist in both investigating and resolving financial exploitation cases. It will also work on building or strengthening relationships with law enforcement to achieve justice for older adult victims and to mitigate damages as quickly as possible,” Torres said Wednesday.
State military officials said they are encouraged by the efforts to investigate financial abuse in the commonwealth, which has increasingly been targeted at veterans.
“There are nearly 800,000 veterans in Pennsylvania. Many of these veterans are also senior citizens, and much to my dismay, are older vets are often also disabled are prime targets for scammers,” Department of Military and Veteran Affairs Adjutant General Mark Schindler said. “According to Federal Trade Commission data, veteran and military losses from scans more than doubled from 2020 to 2021. Additionally, the loss per scam incident for veterans was higher than the losses of their civilian counterparts.”
Schindler said state military officials are particularly concerned about “pension poaching,” a scam that targets veterans, survivors and their families by charging veterans and their beneficiaries for help in applying for and submitting applications for VA pensions.
“I’m pleased that the financial abuse specialists team will be dedicated to investigating the financial exploitation of older adults, including Pennsylvania’s veterans,” Schindler said. “The exploitation of vulnerable Pennsylvanians must never be tolerated.”
The Department of Aging encourages anyone suspecting elder abuse to call the statewide reporting hotline at 1-800-490-8505.
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