Christmas and Boxing Day have just passed by for another year, with 2013 providing one of the most memorable holiday seasons ever. Here's the good and bad.
Americans from Michigan to Maine continue to be without power because of Ice Storm 2013, making it one of the chilliest Christmases in a long time. Utility crews have continued to work tirelessly to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes, but the outcome is still bleak for many. It was a bit of a sad holiday season, too, with 15 deaths in the United States and 10 in Canada (mostly due to carbon monoxide poisoning), but the outpouring of warmth and generosity from strangers has been astounding. Volunteers have been heading out in droves to makeshift heating centers and shelters, doing their best to make sure everyone without power still has a Christmas dinner to enjoy.
Commonwealth countries, especially our neighbors to the north, seem to have the best of both worlds: like us, they take part in Black Friday and score awesome deals on phones, cases, clothing and electronics, but they also have a post-Christmas equivalent called Boxing Day. Those who live close to the border or like online shopping can take part in massively reduced items, sometimes saving up to 90%.
It's not a new thing to release movies on Christmas Day, as that gives studios one last chance to pull in big bucks at the box office, as well as gear up for awards season. This Christmas, some of the more notable movies released were the Coen Brothers' latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, Martin Scorcese's Wolf of Wall Street, August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and Justin Bieber's second film effort, Believe. It's a great day to see movies, as after you've had breakfast and opened gifts, there's not much else to do for the rest of the day.
Thousands in Georgia spent Christmas Day getting introduced to "text phishing", a way that scammers reach out to others via smartphones. People woke up to texts that read "Achieve Account Frozen" or "Account Frozen", and were instructed to dial a 706 (extreme North Georgia, Athens, Augusta and the Columbus areas) whereby they gave their personal information. The Effingham Sheriff's Department reported that by the day after Christmas, they had received almost 100 reports about the scam.
Meanwhile, scammers were busy in another way on Christmas Day, calling hundreds of people only to hang up and leave a "missed call" message on their phones. Some of the more curious saw the number, called it back, and were greeted with strange sounds on the other end. But what they also didn't know was that they were calling numbers as far away as Grenada, racking up high long-distance bills with the money going straight into the pockets of the scammers. The FCC and authorities caught on pretty quickly, though, and started to terminate the phone numbers; those who do call back will likely hear a recorded message saying the number has been cut off because it's a scam.