HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Aging on Wednesday announced the formation of an investigative unit dedicated to helping investigate financial exploitation cases targeting older Pennsylvanians.

Financial exploitation is among the top three types of elder abuse reported to the Department of Aging, according to a release from the department. It can include property theft, misuse of income or assets, or scams, which can involve medical, grandchild imposter emergency, social security, fake charity, gift card, and pension poaching scams, among others.

FAST (the Financial Abuse Specialist Team) consists of an analyst/supervisor, two additional analysts, and an attorney who will assist Area Agencies on Aging in probing financial exploitation cases, according to a release from the Department of Aging.

The new team evolved from a pilot program that is expanding with the help of federal grant funding.

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“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,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres in the release.

“Utilizing specialty software, FAST analysts ‘follow the money’ to help field investigators, law enforcement and our own elder justice attorney determine what happened to elderly victims’ assets. Our attorney, in turn, will fight to claw back stolen assets and hold perpetrators accountable,” said David Aiello, FAST supervisor, in the release.

A 2019 study conducted by the Department of Aging found that among several hundred financial exploitation cases investigated by 10 local aging agencies covering 14 counties, victims lost an average of about $40,000 each.

Anyone who suspects elder abuse can call the statewide reporting hotline at 1-800-490-8505, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the release noted.