Sun05242015

News

Hilltop robbery suspects implicated in crimes across Bay Area

Hilltop robbery suspects implicated in crimes across Bay Area

The three Oakland men arrested in connection to the May 11 home invasion robbery of a Hilltop Drive home are under investigation for numerous additional crimes committed across the San Francisco Bay area, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office revea...

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Schools

Preschool matriarch steps down

Preschool matriarch steps down


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Children’s Center Preschool Director Non Mead sits beside her granddaughter, Greta Germack, during Greta’s birthday celebration.

Non Mead is the quintessential grandmother. Wise and warm, she ties shoelaces with ...

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Community

No 'Love' for Facebook

No 'Love' for Facebook


COurtesy of TRU Love
Tru Love sent multiple messages to Facebook – and made calls to the media – before the company unlocked her account.

Tru Love’s name may be unusual, but she comes by it naturally.

If only Facebook saw it that way.

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Sports

Semi sweep

Semi sweep


Town Crier file photo
St. Francis High’s Steve Dinneen, rising up for the kill, posted 15 kills in Saturday’s CCS semifinal sweep of rival Bellarmine.

There was no letup in the Lancers. Although the St. Francis High boys volleyball team ...

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Comment

Statute of limitations: Haugh About That?

“I can’t believe he’d do this to me,” I cried hysterically. “After all we meant to each other.” Curling into a ball, torrential teenage tears melted my mascara as my entire world came crashing to an obliterated end...

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Special Sections

Cancer survivors march toward strength, hope via Relay For Life

Cancer survivors march toward strength, hope via Relay For Life


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Cancer survivors Eileen Chun, left, and Marilyn Labetich build strength at Curves of Los Altos.

Two local women took steps toward cancer recovery by caring for themselves and celebrating alongside each other.

Eileen Chun and...

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Business

Repeat business: Répéter consignment celebrates 10 years on State Street

Repeat business: Répéter consignment celebrates 10 years on State Street


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Kellee Breaux owns Répéter, the State Street women’s consignment boutique that celebrates a decade in business Saturday.

Kellee Breaux’s life is a triangle: The 36-year-old lives in Newark, teaches full time a...

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Books

People

EDITH MAY COOPER

EDITH MAY COOPER

September 20, 1908 – April 7, 2015

Edith Cooper died peacefully in her sleep on April 7th in Los Altos, California, at the age of 106, where she had been a resident for over 30 years.

She was predeceased by Frank, her husband and her 3 brothers B...

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Travel

Flying south for the winter: Antarctica trips are not just for the birds

Flying south for the winter: Antarctica trips are not just for the birds


Photos Courtesy of Dave Hadden
Los Altos residents Dave and Joan Hadden watched the scenery from the large boat and a smaller Zodiac.

Standing on the beach with hundreds of thousands of penguins is “the experience of a lifetime,” accord...

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Stepping Out

Bye bye 'Birds'

Bye bye 'Birds'


Ray Renati/Special to the Town Crier
“Birds of a Feather” stars Troy Johnson and Diane Tasca.

Pear Avenue Theatre’s world premiere of “Birds of a Feather” is set to run through Sunday in Mountain View.

The play is the third chapter in local pla...

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Spiritual Life

Mercifully in His grip: Exploring our true position in Christ

I recently read a wonderful analogy about our true position in Christ. It was shockingly contrary to the messages impressed upon me in church, but deeply rooted in the Bible. The analogy is that of child and a parent. If you have ever taken a small ...

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Magazine

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon


tanya kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Shrub manzanitas are known for their sinuous mahogany trunks and branches. If the foliage hides the bark, prune selectively to open the center so that the bark is visible year-round. This Montara manzanita is ...

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Inside Mountain View

Civility Roundtable opens discussion on race, policing

With racially charged unrest shaking places like Ferguson, Mo., New York City and Baltimore, the Mountain View Human Relations Commission posed a question: “How can we prevent Ferguson from happening in Mountain View?”

Nearly 150 residen...

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Same wolf, different clothing: Assistant DA says scam tactics targeting seniors rarely change


Courtesy of StatePoint
Phone scammers use intimidation and threats when targeting seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to identity theft.

Los Altos resident Rebecca Truman last month received a phone call she wasn’t expecting – and likely won’t forget anytime soon.

Identifying himself as a Microsoft representative, the male voice on the other end of the line told Truman that her desktop computer kept sending the company error messages – the type typically seen when a program crashes. However, Truman quickly caught on that the call was nothing more than a haphazard scam attempt when the supposed service representative asked her to access the computer so that he could help her delete the messages.

“In hindsight, it was probably to remove the firewall,” said Truman, a Los Altos resident since 1992. “I told him that he was lying and that he needed to get another job. I pointed out that Microsoft corrects errors through software updates.”

Flustered by her response, she noted, the man became increasingly agitated with her stance, and at one point she heard him whispering to another person in the room, “She won’t believe me.”

Pleas quickly turned to threats, she added.

“He told me that if I didn’t comply that he’d freeze or shut down my computer,” said Truman, who eventually hung up on the man – only to have him call back again the next two days using different names. “His emotional intensity increased and at one point he was even yelling at me over the phone.”

Typical tactics

Janet Berry, deputy district attorney in the Elder Fraud Unit of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, said the tactics employed by Truman’s scammer – threats and intimidation – are typical, regardless of the story being told.

“What changes is not the nature of the scams, but the details of it,” Berry said. “It’s so low, and what amazes me is that it gets lower. There is no limit to the depths a scammer will go. … It’s completely ruthless.”

Despite the common nature of scam tactics, Berry said seniors and other residents in the county remain at risk of having their identities stolen and, in turn, their money. She noted that in 2012, more than 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft – which she called a “small slice” of the scamming pie – at a combined cost of $21 billion. Out of that pie, she added, was $2.6 billion lost in senior-related scams.

Berry said Truman’s caller used a variation of cold-call “phishing” tactics used by scammers in the hope that someone will eventually bite.

“If someone calls you, initiates the conversation and they want your information, it’s a scam – period,” she warned.

Brazen targeting

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos Police Sgt. Scott McCrossin noted that fear isn’t the only way scammers have lured seniors into handing over money. He pointed to a recent case in which a male scammer employed a common scheme typically used in scam emails to befriend and swindle a senior in Los Altos. The man told her he needed money to pay some outstanding taxes, in return for the promise to share some lottery winnings he was set to receive in the near future.

McCrossin added that the Spanish-speaking senior – buoyed by the promise of riches – went to her bank and withdrew several thousand dollars in cash for the scammer, whom she never heard from again.

No free lunch

“He was taking advantage of her for cultural reasons and because of her age,” said McCrossin, who added that con men targeting Los Altos seniors is nothing new, given the area’s affluence and robust elderly population.

Shawna Reeves, an elder-abuse expert and consultant based out of Oakland, said she’s seen the same scare tactics experienced by Truman in other schemes – including those who use government program signups like the Affordable Care Act to take advantage of uninformed residents. In these cases, Reeves said scammers typically offer seniors help navigating through the signup process and ask for an upfront down payment – while others ask for the senior’s personal information in order to do the signups for them. Those resisting the offer are often told they’ll face harsh financial or other penalties for noncompliance.

“Some would even say they’d go to jail – it’s that brazen,” said Reeves, a 1995 graduate of Mountain View High School.

Reeves said the promise of wealth is another common example she’s seen in the form of low-cost or free asset planning seminars for seniors. While many are legitimate, she noted, others simply serve as an opportunity to pressure seniors into purchasing investment products not suitable for their financial needs.

She pointed to a 2007 Securities and Exchange Commission study of 110 firms offering “free lunch” financial seminars. The study revealed that all of the seminars advertised as educational or those without sales pitches in fact did involve a sales presentation at some point. Another 50 percent of them featured “misleading” or “exaggerated” claims such as double-digit returns, while 23 percent offered “possibly unsuitable recommendations.” Another 13 percent, the report noted, “appeared to be fraudulent.”

“If you think about it, to put on a seminar costs something,” Reeves said. “They’re not doing it out of the kindness of their heart. They’re going to want to make money somehow. … It really comes down to remembering that there is no free lunch.”

In the future

Looking ahead, Berry said 2014 will likely feature more of the same seen in 2013 – more scammers targeting a growing population of seniors that now include many baby boomers.

“It would be safe to say that this gets bigger every year,” she said. “Some of them we find out about – I think most we don’t. It’s a hugely underreported crime, in part because of embarrassment and fear. If an elder tells someone they’re sending their money to Liberia or something, they’re afraid they’ll lose their independence. It’s really a reasonable fear.”

Despite what she concedes might seem like a gloomy landscape, Berry said she hopes that continued outreach and education will eventually lead to residents and law enforcement collectively putting “a major dent in the scam trade in this county.”

“I am hopeful, because every time I talk to people about elder-fraud prevention, they’re on board,” she said. “It just requires getting the word out, and the community gets galvanized – that gives me hope.”

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