Financial Abuse Specialist Team (F.A.S.T.)
In 2008 the District Attorney’s Office in Sedgwick County created the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST). This is a specialized fraud unit, working with concerned members of the community, to address the growing problem of financial abuse of the elderly.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports the nation's 65-and-older population grew from 44.7 million in 2013 to 46.2 million in 2014. The dependency ratio, or the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages, is projected to climb rapidly from 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2030. The expected steep rise in the dependency ratio over the next two decades reflects the projected proportion of people 65 and older climbing from 13 percent to 19 percent of the total population over the period, with the percentage in the 20 to 64 age range falling from 60 percent to 55 percent.
Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau also show the nation's 90-and-older population nearly tripled over the past three decades, reaching 1.9 million in 2010. Over the next four decades, this population is projected to more than quadruple. The National Council on Aging says up to 5 million older Americans are either physically or financially abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.6 billion. The NCOA reports one study found only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. While likely underreported, elder financial abuse costs older Americans $2.9 billion per year.
FAST is a network of specialists from law enforcement, the banking industry, the Kansas Dept. for Children and Families (DCF, formerly SRS) along with private attorneys and mental health specialists. Many of these organizations have workers who are on the front lines of elder abuse investigations and can notify law enforcement when they see fraud or abuse.
The formation of FAST led to a three-tiered approach: consultation, assistance and public education. FAST meets once a month in Sedgwick County.
FAST successful brings different agencies and the private sector together to uncover cases of elder abuse and take remedial measures to either preserve the financial resources of the elderly victims and/or hold perpetrators accountable.
Indicators of financial abuse
- A recent acquaintance expresses an interest in finances, promises to provide care, or ingratiates him- or herself with the elder.
- A relative or caregiver has no visible means of support and is overly interested in the elder's financial affairs.
- A relative or caregiver is reluctant to spend money for needed medical treatment for the elder.
- The utility, nursing home/care facility and other bills are not being paid.
- The elder's placement, care, or possessions are inconsistent with the size of his or her estate.
- A relative or caregiver isolates the elder, makes excuses when friends or family call or visit, and does not give the elder messages.
- A relative or caregiver gives implausible explanations about finances, and the elder is unaware of or unable to explain the arrangements made.
- Checking account and credit card statements are sent to a relative or caregiver and are not accessible to the elder.
- At the bank, the elder is accompanied by a relative or caregiver who refuses to let the elder speak for him- or herself, and/or the elder appears nervous or afraid of the person accompanying him or her.
- The elder is concerned or confused about "missing money."
- There are suspicious signatures on the elder's checks, or the elder signs checks and another party fills in the payee and amount sections.
- There is an unusual amount of banking activity, particularly just after joint accounts are set up or someone new starts helping with the elder's finances.
- A will, power of attorney, or other legal document is drafted, but the elder does not understand its implications.
In the event financial abuse or any type of abuse is suspected, please immediately contact the following :
DCF/Adult Protective Services, 1-800-922-5330
Wichita Police, dial 911 in case of emergency or imminent safety issue, or contact the case desk 316-268-4221 to file an incident report.