Back in bloom: Filoli reopens

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Courtesy of Filoli
Filoli estate in Woodside has reopened, though the estate house and the Quail’s Nest Cafe remain closed, as do picnic areas.

The Filoli estate in Woodside is back in business.


‘Expiring license’ scam tricks Microsoft Windows users

Microsoft Corp. no longer will provide technical assistance, software updates or bug fixes for Windows 7, which is big news for users of the popular operating system. The recent announcement is giving scammers an opportunity to confuse Windows users into paying to update their “expiring Windows license” – whether they need to or not, according to recent Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker reports.

How the scam works

You receive a call from someone who claims to be a concerned Microsoft employee, who explains that you need to upgrade your operating system if you want your computer to keep working. The caller may say that you need to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or simply that your Windows license is expiring.

The caller may seem friendly and helpful, but he or she is far from it. Someone may convince you to pay yearly fees (that don’t exist) or request remote access to your computer under the guise of installing software. If you pay the fees, you could lose hundreds of dollars. But if you allow the scammer access to your computer, your secure personal information, such as banking details and login credentials, can be compromised. This puts you at risk for identity theft.

Protect yourself

To safeguard consumers from the scam, the Better Business Bureau recommends the following.

  • Don’t trust unsolicited callers. Reputable companies don’t call consumers without their permission.
  • Double check unusual claims. If someone calls you claiming you have a problem you had no idea existed, don’t take their word for it. Hang up and do some research before you accept any help. In the BBB Scam Tracker reports, victims claim they were already using Windows 10 when they got a call advising they needed to upgrade.
  • Never allow a stranger remote access to your computer. If you have a genuine tech problem, get help from a reputable company or individual.
  • Get tech information straight from the source. If your computer runs Windows, for example, find out about updates, new operating systems and tech support directly from Microsoft. Double check you are on the official website or calling the real support line before you share personal information or pay any money.

Better Business Bureau representatives checked with Microsoft, and officials confirmed that the company never reaches out to offer support by phone or pop-up on a computer screen. All support requests are initiated by customers. Microsoft won’t reimburse scam victims for money or gift cards given to scammers, but representatives will check a computer to make sure any viruses or malware have been removed.

For more information, visit BBB.org/TechSupportScam tips.

For BBB’s research on why some people are more susceptible to scams, visit BBB.org/ExposedToScams.

Victims of a scam can report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help others stay alert and informed and avoid similar fraudulent activity.

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Franchise Tax Board details state filing changes

Tax season is in full swing at the Franchise Tax Board, and officials want to alert taxpayers to changes for this year and urge them to take advantage of online services to file taxes and secure their refunds as quickly as possible.

Realtors learn how reverse mortgage can help some senior homeowners

A mortgage and personal finance adviser discussed reverse mortgages, an option that can provide cash for some senior homeowners, at a Silicon Valley Association of Realtors district meeting in Mountain View last month.

Andy Block of Opes Advisors explained to realtors how a reverse mortgage works. A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows homeowners 62 and older who have accrued considerable equity in their home to convert part of the equity into money that can be used for a variety of purposes. It’s the reverse of a traditional mortgage in that no monthly payment is required. The senior homeowner can receive funds as a lump sum, fixed monthly payment or line of credit within certain guidelines. The entire loan balance becomes due and payable when the borrower dies, moves away permanently or sells the home. 

Borrowers need to be aware that they are responsible for paying property taxes, insurance and maintenance, just as one would with a traditional mortgage. Many have fallen into the trap of not paying the fees and are then forced into foreclosure.

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, borrowers must be at least 62 years or older and must occupy the property as their primary residence and have considerable equity in their home. The home must meet minimum Federal Housing Administration property standards, and borrowers must meet Financial Assessment guidelines and complete a counseling session with a Housing and Urban Development-approved counselor.

Block said a reverse mortgage is an option for seniors who want to remain in their home but are short on funds to pay for monthly expenses. The loan also can be used to purchase a new home due to relocation, downsizing or even upsizing. Borrowers can use the funds to pay off a traditional mortgage or to build a safety net for unplanned emergencies, home repairs or health-care expenses.

“A reverse mortgage is not the right solution for everyone,” Block said. “However, if a senior needs cash to handle daily living expenses, enhance their quality of life and/or maximize their retirement savings while wanting to remain in their own home, it is certainly a viable option worth considering.”

Borrowers should be aware that by taking equity now, there would be less equity for heirs down the road, Block said.

The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors provided information for this article. For more information, email Rose Meily at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit silvar.org.

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