Pennsylvania Department of Aging funds task force to fight financial crimes against older adults
Reprinted from The Philadelphia Inquirer
In response to an increase in financial elder abuse, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) has funded the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), a four-member task force to assist in probing complex cases against older adults.
As one of the fastest-growing forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation requires the work of many state and local agencies to investigate. Last week, PDA announced plans to form a dedicated investigative unit to support probes into complex financial exploitation cases. PDA won a $666,000 two-year federal grant to fund the unit.
“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,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.
Financial exploitation ranks among the top three types of elder abuse reported to PDA. The most prevalent types of financial elder abuse are unauthorized bank withdrawals, scams and fraudulent loans. It can also take the form of property theft, misuse of income or assets, misuse of power of attorney, or scams.
Legal cases are typically challenging to prosecute, as more than 60% of the abuse is perpetrated by family members. More fraud translates into more older adults applying for government benefits.
PCA President and CEO Najja R. Orr, MBA, DBA, said the new unit “is incredibly important” because PCA, too, has seen an increase in elder abuse, including financial exploitation cases, over the course of the past few years. “Any initiatives from the state to support … efforts to protect older adults from financial harm in the communities we serve is one that I wholeheartedly support.”
Report elder abuse
Common signs and symptoms of abuse may include isolation, weight loss, bruises or broken bones, increased confusion, unusual withdrawals from any account, or signing over one’s home to another person. If you suspect elder abuse, call 24/7: The PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or the state’s elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505.
Abuse reports can be made on behalf of an older adult, whether the person lives at home or in a care facility, personal care home or hospital. Tips can remain anonymous and have legal protection from retaliation, discrimination, and civil or criminal prosecution.