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BILLINGS, Mont. – Representatives from over a dozen government agencies, nonprofits, and financial institutions met in Billings today to launch the Southeastern Montana “FAST” Team, a regional rapid-response group that’s part of Montana’s new Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force.

Southeastern Montana FAST (Fiduciary Abuse Specialty Team) is the Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force’s first local team dedicated to addressing financial abuse of Montana seniors and other vulnerable adults. The Billings-based FAST Team is a pilot program that the Task Force plans to replicate in other areas of the state if it’s successful.

“Financial abuse and exploitation is a big problem in Montana, especially for our aging population and our seniors who’ve worked hard and saved their entire lives,” Rosendale said. “This new team is part of our effort to secure justice for our state’s elders and show that exploitation won’t be tolerated in Big Sky Country.”

Today’s FAST Team meeting featured representatives from the Montana State Auditor, Montana Department of Justice (Consumer Protection and Prosecution Services Bureaus), the United States Department of Justice, Adult Protective Services, Billings Police Department, Yellowstone County Attorney, Custer County Attorney, Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions, Montana Medicaid Fraud Unit, Big Sky Senior Services, Adult Resource Alliance, First Interstate Bank, Buchanan Capital, and others.

The FAST Team discussed members’ roles and jurisdictions, the operation of the new team, opportunities for coordination, funding, and the plan moving forward at First Interstate Bank in downtown Billings.

The goal of the new FAST Team is to rapidly respond to cases of suspected financial abuse of seniors and other vulnerable Montanans while ensuring the proper authorities and organizations work together across multiple jurisdictions and areas of expertise. The FAST Team will also engage in education and outreach in local communities.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale created the new statewide Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force at the beginning of this year to combat financial abuse. The State Auditor’s office is a criminal justice agency that investigates and prosecutes financial crimes involving securities and insurance.

Montana has the second-oldest state population in the country, and financial exploitation of elders is a growing problem. People over 65 control the vast majority of the country’s wealth after a lifetime of work and saving, making the senior population the prime target for financial abuse.

Rosendale’s office reports that 75 percent of securities fraud cases it has investigated in recent years have involved a person older than 65 and estimates that Montana seniors lose millions of dollars each year due to securities fraud and scams.

Senior financial exploitation is a highly underreported problem because of shame, fear, and confusion. Older Montanans are often victimized by family members, close friends, and others with access to their financial assets.

Since a new law supported by Rosendale was enacted in 2017 to help fight financial abuse, the State Auditor’s office has received more than 30 reports of suspected exploitation and been able to prevent more than $5 million in problematic transactions from taking place.