Scam artists have been calling Arlington residents, claiming to be utility bill collectors, according to police. They often become aggressive on the phone and demand payment for outstanding bills. The scammers have also threatened to cut off service altogether if immediate payment is not provided over the phone. They ask the victim to set up a pre-paid debit card so funds can be loaded onto it and accessed over the phone.
In the past, many utility scams police came across involved minority or elderly residents. This one, however, appears to target small businesses. Since the beginning of the year, police have investigated 21 instances of this scam in Arlington, nine of which occurred just in the past month.
The scammers have been requesting various amounts of money ranging from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand, police say. Although most of the victims refused to pay and contacted police, a few did hand over money.
Police remind residents never to provide personal information to people over the phone, including bank account numbers, credit card info and social security numbers. If you receive a call from someone claiming to work for a utility or another business, attempt to verify the individual’s identity by calling the service number on your utility bill or on the company’s website. Do not attempt to call phone numbers a caller may offer, because the number will often ring to another scam artist.
Do not rely on your caller I.D. to verify suspicious calls, because scammers can alter phone numbers to appear like they belong to a utility company. Legitimate utility companies will not attempt to pressure customers into making a snap decision or an immediate payment.
If you receive a call you believe is a scam, hang up and call the Arlington County Police non-emergency number at 703-228-2222 to file a police report.
Update at 3:45 p.m. — Dominion reports that the cause of the outage was an underground equipment failure and power has been restored to all customers.
Dominion crews are at the scene of a power outage that has left part of Ballston dark.
Dominion Power spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson confirms that around 250 customers are affected by the outage. Numerous ARLnow.com readers in the 4200 and 4300 blocks of N. Fairfax Drive report being without power since about 1:15 p.m.
Drivers and pedestrians should also be aware that the traffic light is out at the intersection of N. Fairfax Drive and N. Taylor Street.
A number of Dominion workers, apparently investigating and attempting to fix the problem, have been spotted along N. Utah Street near Fairfax Drive. So far, there is no confirmation of exactly what caused the outage or when customers should have power again.
This week, gay marriage has come to the forefront of American politics as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments regarding California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In light of the proceedings, Rep. Jim Moran (D) is reiterating his stance as an advocate of LGBT rights, including gay marriage and full marriage benefits.
DOMA overwhelmingly passed in Congress in 1996, but Moran notes he was one of the few who voted against the law. He released the following statement on Wednesday, following oral arguments in the case of United States v. Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of DOMA:
“DOMA is unjust and un-American, contradicting long-standing legal principles and blatantly discriminating against specific legal marriages just because they involve gay and lesbian couples. DOMA flies in the face of our nation’s commitment to civil rights. I am proud to have been one of the 67 representatives who voted against this law’s passage in 1996.
“It’s also disturbing that House Republicans have wasted over $3 million defending DOMA in court over the past three years. I find it unconscionable that while budgets are being slashed by sequestration and many federal workers face furloughs, Republicans in the House voted to pay private lawyers $525 per hour to defend this discriminatory law.
“I strongly support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry and have full access to the benefits and obligations of marriage. While churches should continue to be able to sanction marriages consistent with their faith, discrimination has no place in the laws that govern our country.
“In addition to being the truly ‘pro-family’ position, marriage equality is an issue that tests our nation’s fidelity to our fundamental values. The Declaration of Independence affirms that ‘all men are created equal’ and that every American has a right to ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Surely these principles cannot be fulfilled without the ability to marry the person you love.”
Power has been restored to most of the customers affected by a power outage that occurred in the Clarendon, Courthouse and surrounding neighborhoods. However, there are pockets that may be dark for another hour or two.
At the height of the outage, more than 6,600 customers were without power. As of 10:20 a.m., Karl Neddenien with Dominion Power said less than 1,000 are still dark. Those customers are expected to have power restored by noon.
According to Neddenien, the outage occurred due to a problem in an underground equipment vault near Washington Blvd and N. 10th Street. Crews continue to work to figure out exactly what went wrong. There were reports of a flash and a couple of loud bangs just before the outage, but Neddenien isn’t able to confirm yet if that’s related to the outage.
“We need to get in there and determine just what happened,” Neddenien said. “But more importantly, we need to work on getting power back to everyone.”
Police have been assisting with directing traffic at busy intersections where the traffic lights went out, particularly at Lee Hwy and N. Veitch Street. Most of the affected traffic lights have come back on, but there are reports of some still out in Clarendon. Drivers who encounter dark lights without police directing traffic are reminded to treat the intersection as a four-way stop.
At about 9:15 a.m., a tree fell on power lines along Lorcom Lane, in the area of N. Jackson Street, causing several transformers to blow. That knocked out power to 3,827 customers, according to Dominion. Power was restored by noon, the company said.
Shortly after that outage was reported, another began.
“Around the same time we had another outage involving a tree on a power line in nearby northern Arlington,” Dominion spokeswoman Daisy Pridgen told ARLnow.com. “It affected 2,455 customers. Power was restored in two hours and 25 minutes.”
Traffic lights were reported dark on busy Lee Highway near I-66 as a result of the outages.
As of 10:15 this morning, only 997 Dominion customers were without power in Arlington, compared to more than 5,000 around the same time yesterday and more than 18,000 at the height of Superstorm Sandy.
Last night, Arlington officials reported that there were no dark traffic lights in the county. Six intersections were using generators to keep the signals functioning, however. There were about 20 non-functioning traffic signals the morning after the storm.
As of 5:30 last night, about 18 streets were still blocked or partially blocked by down trees, but county crews were working to clear the debris, according to a county media update.
Dominion says crews will be working on power lines and equipment at the following Arlington locations today:
- N. Henderson Rd & N. 3rd St
- S. 7th St & Buchanan
- Arlington Ridge Rd & S. 28th St
- Columbia Pike & S Buchanan St
- N 15th St & N Vermont St
- N Inglewood St & 17th St N
- 1st Rd & N Irving St
- N Quinn St & N 12th St
- N Stuart St & N 25th St
- N Underwood St & N 25th St
- N Nelson St & N 10th St
- S 5th St & S Aberdeen St
- S Chesterfield Rd south of Four Mile Run
- S. Glebe Rd. & S 9th St.
- Williamsburg Blvd & N Edison St
- Wilson Blvd & N Randolph St
Flickr pool photo by Afagen
The company plans to work on downed lines and blown transformers in more than 40 locations around the county.
As of 10:00 a.m., 5,264 Dominion customers are still without power in Arlington. That’s down from more than 18,000 at the storm’s peak. The company says it plans to have all Superstorm Sandy-related outages restored by Thursday night.
Arlington County crews are continuing to clean up debris-covered streets and assess damage. The county expects damages in Arlington from Sandy “will be in the millions of dollars.”
Dominion is planning to work at the following locations today:
- 10th St & N. Daniel St
- 14th St west of N Longfellow St
- 25th St east of Old Dominion Dr
- 29th St N & Sycamore St
- S. 12th St
- 40th St south of 41st St
- Carlyn Springs Rd & South 1st Pl
- Columbia Pk & Buchanan St
- Hayes St @ 23rd St
- Lee Hwy & N Calvert St
- Lee Hwy & N. Vermont St
- Little Falls Rd & 26th St
- 10th St & N Edgewood St
- North 17th St & North Hartford St
- N 19th St & Lexington
- N 23 Rd St & N Fillmore St
- N 25th St & N 26th Rd
- N 5th St east of N Monroe St
- N Barton St & 10th St
- Yorktown Blvd & N Brandywine St
- N Harrison St & 16th St
- N Kennsington St & 35th Rd
- N 25th Rd & N Kensington St
- N Pollard St btwn Wilson Blvd & 6th St
- N Quinn St & N 12th St
- N Stuart St & N 25th St
- N. Edison St & N. 38th St
- N. Quincy St. & N. 18th S
- N. Stafford St off Lee Hwy
- N. West St & Washington Blvd
- Patrick Henry Dr & Washington Blvd
- N. Oakland St north of Old Domonion Dr
- S 11th St & Frederick St
- S 16th St & S Ives St
- S 24th Rd
- S 4th St & Illinois
- S 4th St & Jefferson St
- S Eads St south of 12th St
- S Glebe Rd & S 3rd St
- S. Shirlington Rd. south of 25th St
- Washington Blvd & N Longfellow St
- Westmoreland St & Williamsburg Blvd
- Wilson Blvd & N Madison St
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) – Power has been restored to nearly all of the 2,200 customers who were without power due to a vehicle accident in Cherrydale. The intersection of N. Quincy Street and Lee Highway, however, remains a mess.
According to an officer on the scene, just before 10:00 a.m., the driver of a large truck was attempting to make a right turn onto Lee Highway from northbound Quincy Street. Somehow he snagged a cable anchored into the sidewalk, which supports a utility pole. The top of the pole snapped and brought down wires, a transformer and part of another pole.
“This is all just because some guy couldn’t make a turn correctly,” the officer said.
The officer declined to comment on whether the driver received a ticket.
Traffic signals were dark in parts of Cherrydale, Ballston and Virginia Square in addition to the residential customers without power. Dominion was able to re-route power and all but 166 customers had electricity restored within an hour, according to Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson. As of 2:40 p.m., there are only 9 remaining customers who don’t have power, and they are in the immediate vicinity of the accident.
Dominion crews are on the scene and have to replace the smashed transformer, one utility pole, the cross beam of another utility pole and will have to reconnect all the power lines. They also have to clean up the fluid that leaked from the smashed transformer, which Anderson said is harmless mineral oil. Crews had first hoped to have all the work finished sometime around 5:00 p.m., but due to the extent of the damage, the new estimate is in the 7:00-9:00 p.m. range.
Quincy Street remains closed between 20th Street and Lee Highway. Police are at the intersection to help with traffic control.
More than 1,500 Dominion customers are reported to be without power this morning in Arlington.
The outage appears to be centered around the northwest corner of Arlington, near the border with the City of Falls Church. A number of readers have been reporting power outages and dark traffic lights along Lee Highway.
Among the traffic signals without power are those at the intersections of Lee Highway and N. Harrison Street and Lee Higway and N. Sycamore Street. The Overlee pool is closed due to the power outage, according to the pool’s Twitter account.
Dominion trucks are reported to be in the area, working to restore power.
Dominion is reminding work crews and homeowners in Virginia to call “Miss Utility” at 811 before digging on their property.
The reminder comes just a day after a contractor suffered burns after striking an electrical line while digging along Lee Highway. From a Dominion press release:
The approach of Aug. 11 (8/11) serves as a reminder for Dominion Virginia Power customers to call Miss Utility at 811 before digging on their property to avoid injuries and service disruptions from damage to underground utility lines. Projects include planting shrubs, trees and gardens; building patios; installing fencing, and removing tree stumps and old structures.
“Even if you don’t think there are underground lines in your work area, be safe and call 811 before you dig on your property,” said Rodney Blevins, vice president for distribution operations. “Underground lines may go unnoticed for years and pose a hidden safety risk.”
It may be easy to remember to dig with “CARE:” Call Miss Utility at 811 before you dig. Allow time for marking. Respect and protect the marks. Excavate carefully.
In Virginia, calling 811 will reach Miss Utility of Virginia, the state’s one-call notification center. A representative will be sent to the caller’s property at no charge to mark the underground utility lines by means of paint, stakes, flags or a combination of the three.
Miss Utility’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding legal state and national holidays. Emergency notification service is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Police and firefighters responded to the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Monroe Street this morning for an electrical accident.
Initial reports indicate that a worker who was digging with a small front loader struck a high-voltage line. The contact sent sparks flying through the air. The worker reportedly suffered burn injuries from the sparks and was transported to a local hospital.
The accident happened in front of a Dominion power substation.
More than a half dozen Dominion workers are now on scene, assessing the situation. State occupational safety investigators were also said to be en route.
The front loader belongs to D.A. Foster, a Northern Virginia company that “specializes in relocation and new business services of underground utilities, including gas, electric, water, sewer and telecommunications.” Earlier this week county officials told ARLnow.com that work was underway along Lee Highway for the Cherrydale Utility Undergrounding project. However, Arlington County spokeswoman Laura G. Smith says the company was contracting for Dominion at the time.
The scam involves offering customers the opportunity to set up an account to pay utility bills via a federal program. According to the Better Business Bureau, there is no such federal program in existence to pay household bills.
Victims have reportedly been contacted in person as well as by phone, text and social media. They were asked to register their Social Security numbers and banking information in order set up an account to make payments. The account numbers the victims were then given for bill paying turned out to be fake.
So far, Dominion has notified around 60 customers that their payments could not be processed because the account information they gave was invalid thanks to the scam.
Anyone who is contacted about a federal government bill paying program should not give any personal information due to the risk of identity theft. Potential scam victims are encouraged to contact the Better Business Bureau and local police. Customers should ask for an official Dominion ID from anyone who may come to their residence and claim to be from the company.
The Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- Beware of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident about the person with whom you are speaking.
- Use your own personal information. Always pay your bills with your own personal information; never pay your bills with information that is not your own.
- Do your research. If you receive a call claiming to be from your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
- Beware of the door-to-door sales approach. Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.
- Be proactive. If you have already provided information to someone claiming to offer this service, contact your bank immediately. Also contact the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and have a notation made on your account so it doesn’t impact your credit rating.
- Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not become victims. Elderly victims are common in this type of scam, but anyone who pays a utility bill is a potential target.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) The good news about power outages in Arlington is that all of those stemming from the June 29 storm have been fixed. The bad news is crews had to deal with some new outages this morning, brought on by the storms that passed through Sunday night.
The Dominion outage website showed around 100 customers without power as of 8:00 a.m., but those now appear to have been fixed.
Verizon, meanwhile, reports significant progress on restoring service to its TV, internet and phone customers who were affected by the June 29 storm. A Verizon spokesman said technicians worked extended shifts over the weekend and service levels are nearly back to a normal level today.
Crews are now working to restore service to “several hundred customers in areas technicians could not previously reach due to downed power lines,” according to Verizon.
“I’m extremely proud of our team, which has worked 12 hours-plus daily in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees to bring service back for our customers,” said Chris Childs, Verizon’s Potomac region president of consumer and mass-business markets. “I’m extremely grateful to our customers, who have been overwhelmingly gracious, patient and understanding throughout this process. We will keep going until we’ve fully restored service for all those affected by this harsh weather.”
As of this morning, Verizon field crews were responding to a total of 163 downed utility poles and 602 downed copper or fiber cables throughout the D.C. region. Damage assessments are still underway following Sunday’s storms; there’s no word on exactly how many customers were affected.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
As of 2:30 p.m., Dominion’s outage website showed 1,438 customers without power. That’s down from 3,960 at the same time yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. Dominion reports it’s on track to have electricity restored to nearly all customers by Friday night.
“In a few instances, work in Northern Virginia may continue into Saturday where there was extreme damage,” said Rodney Blevins, Dominion vice president of Electric Distribution Operations, in a statement.
Arlington County says 11 roads remain blocked by trees and wires, down from 17 yesterday. Workers have collected and processed 646 tons of brush since Saturday. Collection efforts are expected to continue for the next two to three weeks.
Due to the power outages and closures, the Arlington Public Library has adjusted due dates for some users. Any checked out materials that were due back between June 30 and July 4 are now due this Saturday, July 7. Materials with any other due date must be returned at the originally designated time.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Dominion says its on track to restore power to 80-85 percent of customers affected by Friday’s storms by the end of the day today. The company says 90-95 percent of affected customers should be back on line by Thursday night, with “virtually all remaining customers” restored by Saturday night.
Dominion crews and mutual aid crews will be working through the Fourth of July holiday, the company said.
As of 10:00 a.m., there were 15,654 Dominion customers still without power in Arlington, according to the company’s outage map. The planned power line work sites today are:
- 14th St S
- 16th St South
- 4th St N & Washington Blvd
- 6th St & N Lincoln St
- Arlington Ridge Rd @ S 23rd St
- Barton St & 2nd St
- Carlyn Springs Rd & S 1st Pl
- Columbia Pike & S Scott St
- Lorcom Ln & Nellie Custis
- N 23 Rd St & N Fillmore St
- N 26th St & N Glebe Rd
- N 29th St & Westmoreland St
- N 30th St
- N 36th St & N Kensington St
- N Columbus St
- N Kenilworth St
- N Kennebec St
- N Nelson La & N 27th St
- N Pershing Dr @ N Oxford St
- N 9th St & N Fairfax Dr
- N Somerset St & Little Falls St
- N. 13th St. & Buchanan St.
- N. 26th St & N. Harrison S
- N. Harrison St & N. 26th St
- N. Woodrow St & 21st St
- S 17th St.
- S Courthouse Rd
- S Frederick St
- S Highland St
- S Pollard St
- S Taylor St
- S Veitch St
- S. 16th St & S. Nelson St
- Washington Blvd
- Wilson Blvd & N Liberty St
Flickr pool photo by ddimick