The Coast News Group
Mark Walters of OneWest Bank talks about protecting seniors from financial scams. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
Community Rancho Santa Fe

Pervasive financial scams discussed at Senior Center

RANCHO SANTA FE — While scams continue to target seniors, there are ways to spot and avoid them. On Jan. 24, Mark Walters, vice president and branch manager of OneWest Bank in Rancho Santa Fe, visited the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center to cover those topics.

Walters shared that the reason for the visit was to give back to the community. In the past 40 years of working with clients in the banking industry, he said he has witnessed numerous scams.

“We are here today to try and help people become less victims and more knowledgeable so that they can protect not only themselves but their loved ones and their family members,” Walters said.

The biggest thing to remember, Walters said, is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is — so walk away from it.

“The problem with scams are that the people are usually very charismatic, and they work on your emotions,” he said. “That’s where you get into trouble because your logic doesn’t click in.”

Walters said if someone is approached with something, they should sit down and analyze the situation.

“Most people go on the emotional side thinking that their ship has finally come in,” said Walters, adding that even his own father was a scam victim.

Before moving forward with anything, Walters wants people to know how important it is to first speak with someone such as a relative, financial officer or even broker.

“We’re all trying to talk and help because we don’t want to destroy your dreams, but we do want to protect you because there’s a lot of bad people out there trying to scam you,” he said. “So, do talk to other people and don’t be embarrassed.”

The goal is to double check on things and screen for legitimacy.

Walter highlighted the top 10 areas subject to financial scams. They include Medicare and health insurance, prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery arrangements, anti-aging products, telemarketing, internet fraud, investment, reverse mortgage, sweepstakes and lotteries, and the grandparent scam.

The latter scam is when someone who calls a senior impersonating a grandchild who needs financial help.

In many instances, a person may not fall for the first scam attempt. It may take a few times. Walters said that scammers start feigning a personal interest in their potential victims.

“They start taking an interest in your family, and they start becoming a friend,” Walters said. “That’s how you get sucked into it a lot of times. They are very talented at what they do — it’s very hard because they prey on people’s emotions and that’s just sad.”

Walters said he hoped that people walked away from the discussion with new information and a willingness to talk to people if approached with something questionable in the future.

“If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, talk to somebody,” he said. “Walk into any bank, they are all trained to help you about this.”