It’s a season for giving, but apparently some scam artists are instead using the opportunity for taking. The Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is warning residents to watch out for holiday scams, particularly those involving false charities and phishing.
Some groups use names that sound similar to legitimate charities and pressure consumers for donations. They might also offer particularly touching stories in an attempt to garner sympathy and contributions. The AG’s office said many consumers who would typically notice the sketchy “charities” may be too busy or distracted by the holidays to pick up on the normal cues.
Phishing involves using deceptive emails or text messages to obtain usernames, passwords and financial information from a victim. Consumers might receive an email or text message from someone posing as a representative from a bank or retail establishment, saying the customer’s account has been restricted due to unusual activity or too many unsuccessful online login attempts. The scammer then requests bank account numbers, passwords and/or a social security number to reactivate the account.
Some consumers have received fraudulent text messages, emails or phone calls stating they won a gift card from reputable companies such as Target or Best Buy. Scammers might also say the consumer entered a contest at a store. Both of these tactics are used to bait consumers into providing personal information.
In all cases, consumers should avoid handing over sensitive personal information, and should never feel obligated to donate to a charity under pressure. Ask charity representatives who approach you for more information, and do your own research, the attorney general’s office advises. Check the charity’s website, along with resources such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance or the National Association of State Charity Officials.
If a charity is legitimate, it will accept your donation at any time and will not need to pressure for donations. Never give cash, and if using a check, make it out directly to the charity instead of an individual person. Do not use money transfer companies to send money to a person you haven’t met.
“My office is committed to helping consumers protect themselves from falling victim to fraud. When it comes to charity scams, especially around the holidays, it is best that people do lots of research and only give money to charities and businesses they can really trust,” said AG Cuccinelli in a statement. “It is our hope that all Virginians can enjoy a joyful and safe holiday season without being taken advantage of by scammers.”
You can file complaints regarding scams on the consumer protection section of the attorney general’s website.
The closures will be in effect on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, for Arlington County offices, libraries and human services offices. Courts are also closed those days; Arlington Circuit Court will be open from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on December 26, and Arlington General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts will be open from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on December 26.
The ART Information Center and all Commuter Stores will be closed on the previously mentioned four days. On December 24 and 31, ART 41, 42, 51, 77 and 87 will run on a Saturday schedule. On December 25 and January 1, ART 41 and 51 will run on a Sunday schedule. The STAR Call Center will be closed all four days and all standing order rides will be cancelled.
Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center will be open from 6:00 a.m.-noon on December 24 and December 31; all other community centers will be closed. On December 25 and January 1, all community centers, including Barcroft, will be closed.
Arlington Public Schools will be closed from December 24-January 2.
Trash and recycling schedules are as follows:
Dec 24 & 31
- Trash & recycling: normal operations
- Special collection: brush, metal, electronics – normal operations
- No cart repair or mulch delivery service
- Leaf bag collection – normal operations
Dec 25 & Jan 1
- Trash & recycling: regular services not provided. Services available for Tuesday customers on Wed 12/26 and Jan 2
- Special collection: scheduled services not provided
- Leaf bag, brush, metal, electronics, cart repair services available for Tuesday customers on Wed Dec 26 and Jan 2
- Call Center: closed
Dec 26 – 28
- Trash & recycling: normal operations – all services completed by COB 12/29
- Special collection: normal operations – all services completed by COB 12/19
- Call center: normal operations
- Trash & recycling: normal operations – all services completed by COB 1/5
- Special collection: normal operations – all services competed by COB 1/5
- Call center: normal operations
Metrorail will run on a regular weekday schedule on December 24. It will be open from 7:00 a.m.-midnight on December 25 and January 1, and will run on a Sunday schedule. MetroAccess subscription trips are cancelled for those two days. On December 31, Metrorail will run on a normal weekdays schedule, but will remain open until 2:00 a.m. to accommodate those celebrating New Year’s Eve.
Amidst the mad scramble to buy last minute presents or make New Year’s Eve plans, local residents have apparently been making a lot of travel plans. In fact, AAA predicts the region will experience “the greatest exodus from the Washington metro area in the 21st Century.”
More than 41 percent of local residents report travel plans of 50 miles or more during the holiday travel period from Saturday, December 22, 2012 to Tuesday, January 1, 2013. That’s a 2.3 percent increase over last year.
“During Christmas and New Year’s we will experience the highest travel volume this decade, especially by the roadways, the railways, and the waterways,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The one exception is the airways, and this year, even that is making a comeback.”
90 percent of the travelers, or more than 2 million people, are expected to make their treks via automobile. About 130,000 people will fly out of D.C. area airports, which is about 5 percent higher than last Christmas.
AAA gives some credit for the travel boost to residents’ increased financial stability, along with lower gas and airfare prices.
The Washington Wizards, Mystics and Capitals hosted a holiday party for underprivileged D.C. area families at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston over the weekend.
The holiday party, held from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Sunday, is a tradition for team owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
“This year 21 families were adopted through Family-to-Family, an initiative created by the Wizards 16 years ago that provides holiday cheer to underserved, deserving families in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,” Monumental said in a press release.
At the party, families were able to skate on the Capitals ice, play games, and meet Santa Claus, Wizards mascot G-Wiz, Wizard Girls, Capitals mascot Slapshot and the Red Rockers. The parents were also given gifts, to be opened in celebration of the holidays later this month. The presents were purchased during a $25,000 holiday shopping spree by Wizards and Capitals wives and girlfriends, funded by Monumental.
Photos courtesy Monumental Sports & Entertainment
National Chamber Ensemble’s Annual Holiday Concert — Dec. 16 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. — The National Chamber Ensemble (NCE) celebrates the spirit of the holiday season on Sunday, December 16 with a show for the whole family. The performance will feature great music, an international guest artist and outstanding young musicians. An annual tradition, the concert will include seasonal favorites like Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”, a Hanukkah Medley and more. The event will take place at the Spectrum Theatre at Artisphere (1611 N. Kent Street).
Aurora Highlands will get a little brighter tonight, during the annual “Miracle on 23rd Street” holiday celebration.
Linden Resources, Inc. is hosting the holiday festivies including a Christmas tree lighting and holiday music. Santa Claus is scheduled to arrive on an Arlington fire truck.
The event is open to the public and begins at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Linden Resources building (750 S. 23rd Street). In addition to the outdoor activities, guests are invited to take part in multi-cultural children’s activities inside the building.
Linden Resources employs and provides job placement for adults with intellectual, physical and mental health disabilities.
County Proposes Tax Cuts to Lure Advertising Firms — Arlington is proposing to eliminate its tax on media buy receipts in the hopes of luring a new advertising firm, and keeping the existing ones. Trying to reduce the tax in 2004 didn’t have the desired effect, and there are now fewer advertising agencies in Arlington than there were in 2004. The suggestion is to eliminate the tax by early 2013. [WTOP]
Gifts that Give Hope Fair — Fifteen locally based non-profit organizations will participate in the second annual Arlington Gifts that Give Hope Fair tomorrow (December 8) at Calvary United Methodist Church (2315 S. Grant Street). During the alternative gift fair, shoppers can choose to donate for a specific gift, such as an “apartment application fee for one family as they leave a shelter” or “a prescription for a sick child.” The fair runs from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. and features holiday music, face painting, crafts, refreshments, special $5 items for children to contribute and a visit from Santa from 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Professional Racquetball Tournament — Some of the world’s top professional women’s racquetball players will participate in the 2012 Christmas Classic this weekend, including #11 ranked T.J. Baumbaugh of Reston and #39 ranked Paola Nunez of Falls Church. The event will take place throughout the weekend (today through Sunday) at the Crystal Gateway Sport and Health Club (1235 S. Clark Street). A list of start times for each player is available online.
Library’s Holiday Tunes Released — The Arlington Public Library has released its fifth annual “Too Cool for Yule Blog,” which includes about an hour of holiday tunes. While some of the songs are standard holiday favorites, the blog offers versions by some non-traditional artists (such as Cee Lo Green singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch). Purists, fear not. The list also features classics from Louis Armstrong, Andy Williams and the late Dave Brubek, who passed away on Wednesday. [Arlington Public Library]
Rosslyn Lights Up Tonight — The 19th annual Light Up Rosslyn night is tonight. The holiday event is taking place from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. in front of the WJLA building (1100 Wilson Blvd). Local officials will flip a big switch to “light up” the Rosslyn skyline. In addition, there will be musical groups performing and free hot cocoa, chili, cider and cookies. [Rosslyn BID]
Reduction in Blue Line Service Planned — Metro plans to further reduce service on the Blue Line when the Silver Line to Tysons Corner opens. With the Silver Line in operation, perhaps by the end of 2013, Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Largo, during both peak and off-peak hours. [Washington Post]
More Commuters Are Using Transit – Updated at 10:10 a.m. — There has been a significant jump in the number of Arlington residents using mass transit as their primary means of commuting to work, according to U.S. Census figures. In 2011, 28.4 percent of residents used transit, compared to 23.3 percent in 2000. [Sun Gazette]
Winter is Coming – This week is Winter Preparedness Week. Though the weather might have been warm over the past few days, Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management is advising residents to take steps to prepare for winter weather. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
From gift wrapping to assisting Santa, volunteers are needed to help with a number of upcoming holiday events. More information about the items listed below, as well as other volunteer opportunities, can be found online.
- The Holiday Project of the National Capital Area seeks volunteers for one-on-one visits with local nursing home residents on Christmas Day. Many of the residents will not have any other visitors during the holidays, so they consider this time a special treat. Children are welcome and pets are welcome with advance notice. For information or to sign up, contact Robin Wiley at 703-370-0370.
- Deliver gifts to local children with incarcerated parents as part of Offender Aid Restoration‘s annual Project Christmas Angel program. Volunteers pick up the gifts on Thursday, December 13 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. and deliver them from December 14 through December 23. Each child receives a gift with a personalized note from their parent. Volunteers must have a car and a valid driver’s license. A partner is suggested (though not required) because parking in some neighborhoods can be a challenge. Contact Emily Freeman at 703-228-7031.
- The Civitan Club of Arlington needs help at the Photos with Santa booth at the Ballston Mall. Volunteers are needed from now through December 24 and must be at least 15-years-old. Helpers will perform various tasks including processing orders, taking photos, printing photos and directing people through the process. Contact Leandra Finder at 703-473-7245.
- The Reading Connection (TRC) seeks “Gift Wrap for Reading” volunteers for various shifts from December 8-24. Volunteers will gift wrap purchases at the Clarendon Barnes & Noble in return for donations to TRC. Contact Stephanie Berman at 703-528-8317 x10 or sign up online.
The food drive will run from Saturday, Dec. 1 to Friday, Dec. 21. Firefighters will collect non-perishable food donations at fire stations in Arlington and Falls Church, and at the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. The donations will then be sent to AFAC, which is based in the Shirlington area.
AFAC is most in need of items like cereal, flour, cooking oil, pasta or canned tuna, according to a press release. The organization serves more than 4,000 adults and children on an average week.
“It’s a myth that no one in Arlington goes hungry,” Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz said in a statement. “Every week, thousands of families and children need our help, just to survive. The men and women of ACFD want to do what they can to help our community, especially during this special time of year.”
The fire department will not be participating in the annual “Toys for Tots” drive this year.
In addition to the ACFD food drive, Arlington County will be running its annual Secret Santa program, which collects gift cards to be donated to needy families, seniors and Foster children.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Arlington residents can expect to see an unusual car on the streets through the holiday season, reminding of the dangers of drunk driving.
The Arlington County Police Department partnered with Red Top Cab and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) in the unveiling of a vehicle that’s half police car and half taxicab. The vehicle has been nicknamed the “Chooser Cruiser” because it reminds people that they have choices for getting home after drinking — in the back of a taxi or in the back of a police car.
“We are very excited to present yet another reminder of the choice people have before taking to the roads if alcohol is part of their celebration,” said Red Top Cab Chief Operating Officer Wayne Miller.
As part of the public/private initiative, Red Top donated the former taxi, which has more than 396,000 miles on it, and paid for its makeover. ACPD donated the lights on top which had previously been on a former police cruiser, and will be responsible for positioning the vehicle throughout the county. Both organizations emphasize that due to the donations, the vehicle was of practically no cost to taxpayers.
The car’s unveiling (which was delayed due to Superstorm Sandy) comes just in time for the holiday season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 percent of all drunk driving deaths in the U.S. occur in December. The holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve see a 40 percent and 60 percent spike in alcohol related traffic deaths, respectively.
“The holiday season is a particularly dangerous time,” said ACPD Chief M. Douglas Scott. “We’re doing everything we can to both identify and apprehend impaired drivers.”
Chief Scott noted that penalties for first time drunk driving offenders include up to a $2,500 fine, a jail term of up to one year and/or the suspension of the offender’s drivers license for up to one year.
Neal Nichols, President of Red Top Cab, handed over the vehicle’s keys to Chief Scott at the unveiling ceremony.
“This retired Red Top Cab spent some of its time already taking people home who had overindulged,” Nichols said. “Let’s hope that this Chooser Cruiser will cause people to think twice and will save lives.”
Arlington is the first area in the D.C. metro to take part in this pilot program. The Chooser Cruiser will be stationed at various points around the county through the new year. It will be used in conjunction with regularly scheduled sobriety checkpoints.
“Hopefully it will change behavior. Even if it changes the behavior of one individual, it can be deemed a success,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “Drunk driving is one of the rare public health issues that is 100% preventable.”
On the front of the car are all the badges for the D.C. metro area’s supporting law enforcement agencies. The back features the number to call for a free lift from SoberRide, a service that has provided nearly 56,000 free rides since 1993.
Starting on December 14 and running through January 1, local residents age 21 and older can call SoberRide for a free trip home, up to a $30 fare. Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., residents can call 1-800-200-TAXI (8294), and AT&T customers can text #WRAP. One of these methods must be used to get the free ride, because calling individual cab companies directly will result in normal cab fares. More information about the program is available online.
All Arlington County courts, libraries, public schools, and administrative offices will be closed on Monday, Nov. 12.
The county’s three indoor swimming pools will be open under holiday hours. Metro and ART will be operating under a holiday schedule. Trash and leaf collection will proceed as normal.
Veterans Day became a U.S. holiday in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I. The ceasefire that ended the war’s major hostilities took effect at 11:00 a.m. on 11/11/18.
The Veterans Day National Ceremony will take place at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Local veterans organizations will also be holding a Veterans Day ceremony on Sunday. From 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., there will be a remembrance ceremony at the Clarendon War Memorial at the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon and Washington Boulevards.
“Each year veterans from Arlington County’s Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion gather at the Clarendon War Memorial to remember local service members lost in past conflicts,” organizers said. The event will also remember an Arlington service member killed in action this year.
“There will be a special wreath presented in honor of Lance Corporal Niall Coti-Sears,” organizers said. “Lance Corporal Coti-Sears was killed in action in June of this year and is the first Arlingtonian to be lost in the Afghanistan war. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.”
Flickr pool photo by ameschen
Among the closures are county government offices, courts, DMV Select offices, the Department of Human Services, libraries, and public schools.
Community centers are closed, with the exception of Barcroft, which is open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Washington-Lee High School pool is also open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Wakefield and Yorktown pools are open from noon to 6:00 p.m.
ART buses are operating on a holiday schedule. Trash pickup is proceeding on a normal schedule.
ARLnow.com will be monitoring any possible breaking news stories but will be on a limited publishing schedule.
Virginia’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday starts tomorrow (Friday).
From Aug. 3-5, certain school supplies, clothing and footwear will be exempt from Virginia’s 5 percent sales tax. The exemption only applies to school supplies priced $20 or less and clothing and shoes priced $100 or less.
A complete list of qualifying items is available on the Virginia Department of Taxation website.
Truth is, we don’t know. But maybe you can help out.