The introduction of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) led to the creation of Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs) and area codes to denote them. Area codes are the set of three numerical digits that start telephone numbers and identify the origins of phone calls. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) administers area codes in Florida.
The only area code currently active in Hillsborough County is:
Area Code 813
Area code 813 became active in 1953. It currently covers Hillsborough County and surrounding counties. Major Hillsborough County communities served by the 813 NPA include Tampa, Brandon, Town‘n’Country, Riverview, Valrico, Plant City, Lake Magdalene, Temple Terrace, Citrus Park, Keystone, Bloomingdale, and Westchase.
What are the Best Cell Phone Plans in Hillsborough County?
In Florida, traditional landlines have witnessed a steady decline in patronage in recent years. Wireless telephony and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) have largely replaced landline usage in the state. A 2019 PSC report indicated that between 2018 and 2019, the total number of landline users in Florida went down from 1.9 million to 1.6 million. On the other hand, wireless phone subscriptions stand at over 21.8 million.
Cell phone services are excellent in Florida. AT&T has the most extensive cell service coverage, extending to 99.2% of Florida. Verizon comes a close second with 99% coverage of the state. T-Mobile and Sprint cover about 89.7% and 83% of the state respectively.
VoIP’s emergence as a viable competitor to traditional telephone services was inevitable. With broadband internet connections used to route calls, VoIP offers more flexibility and a diverse range of functions that continue to attract both business and home subscribers. The 2019 PSC report referenced FCC data that suggest there were over 4.5 million VoIP subscriptions in Florida.
What are Hillsborough County Phone Scams?
These are scams perpetrated against Hillsborough County residents using telephony services. Fraudsters employ live calls, automated calls, and text messaging services to target their victims. They come up with dubious schemes to steal personal information and funds from unsuspecting residents. The Hillsborough County authorities identified some common scams in the county, and these include:
What are Grandparent Scams?
Grandparent scams target elderly residents of Florida. Scammers call their targets and claim to be their grandchildren, who need immediate financial assistance to get out of emergencies. Getting arrested over drunk-driving, being in accidents, and getting kidnapped are common emergencies that fraudsters describe to their victims. They may require these victims to purchase gift cards in bulk and read the inscribed numbers over the phone to save their allegedly distressed relatives. Authorities advise gift card retailers to question clients, especially elderly residents, that purchase gift cards in bulk. Savvy targets can use reverse phone lookups to identify individuals registered to unknown phone numbers calling them. Do not send money to anyone claiming to be a distressed relative without confirming their stories from other family members. Use the FTC online complaints assistant to report grandparent scams.
What are Phishing Scams?
Scammers use phishing to get hold of residents’ personal information that they then use to commit identity theft. They impersonate representatives of organizations familiar to their targets. The fraudsters use phone calls, phony text messages, and emails, purportedly from these reputable agencies, to reach their targets and ask them to update their personal records to targets by following embedded links to cloned websites. If you get random instructions to update confidential records, initiate contact directly with the agencies involved to verify the authenticity of the requests. Do not share your private information with anyone over unsolicited calls or emails. Report phishing scams to the FTC by using the online complaint assistant.
What are Deputy Sheriff Impersonation Scams?
To commit these scams, scammers impersonate Sheriff Deputies and call Hillsborough County residents to inform them about missed court appearances. The fraudsters claim arrest warrants for the targets are out, and only the immediate payment of fines can stop the impending arrests. These scammers employ phone spoofing to trick targets’ caller IDs into displaying the Sheriff’s Office numbers to make their calls look genuine. In this way, victims think they are speaking with local law enforcement officers.
A Sheriff’s Office message update emphasized that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and its employees do not call residents over missed court appearances. The HCSO will also never ask residents for payment to clear warrants over the phone. Residents can dial (813) 247-8200 or file police reports to report these scams to the Sheriff’s Office.
What are Stimulus Check Scams?
Stimulus checks meant for cash-strapped or unemployed residents during disasters have become fair game to scammers. Scammers send messages and links allegedly from the IRS to targets to trick them into submitting their personal information. The Sheriff has notified residents not to click on links in emails or text messages asking them to provide personal information to receive stimulus checks.
If contacted by phone, Hillsborough County residents can unmask scammers by running their phone numbers through reverse phone searches. Information retrieved by such phone number lookups can reveal inconsistencies in the claims made by scammers. Hillsborough County has an online complaints page that residents can use to report these scams. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s County also has a platform for receiving complaints. Additionally, the victims can use the Federal Trade Commission’s complaints assistant to lodge complaints on frauds and scams.
What are Robocalls and Spam Calls?
Robocalls are automated calls that relay pre-recorded messages to residents. There are legitimate robocalls used by telemarketers and political parties to reach their clients. However, robocalls have been abused and residents get thousands of these calls every month. Scammers have also devised means of using robocalls to extort money and sensitive information from unwitting residents.
Mobile phone manufacturers have developed features in phones for diverting suspected spam calls. Telephone carriers also offer call filtering and blocking services, sometimes at a cost. The FCC has resources on call blocking available, which residents can use to reduce the number of spam calls they receive.
Follow these steps to curb robocalls:
- Ignore calls from unknown numbers. Let it redirect to voicemail and screen the messages left for suspicious numbers.
- Set up a voicemail password to guard against hacking.
- End calls that turn out to be robocalls immediately.
- Request call blocking service from your network provider.
- Download third-party call blocking apps and use them if better alternatives are not available from your carrier.
- Add your number to Florida Do Not Call List and the National Do Not Call Registry. Doing this will notify legitimate telemarketers that you do not want to be disturbed by robocalls. After doing this, every robocall received is a potential scam.
- Report to the FDACS or the FTC if robocalls persist after registering on the Do Not Call lists.
How to Spot and Report Hillsborough County Phone Scams?
Phone scammers defraud their victims by using variations of the same cons. When dealing with stranger callers, here are some red flags to indicate that they are potential phone scammers:
- Calls that claim you won lotteries you do not remember entering. Scammers usually ask you to send some payment to claim such bogus winnings.
- Calls threatening arrests or substantial fines over owed taxes or utility fees. Legitimate organizations do not contact defaulters over the phone without initially sending multiple mail notices.
- Calls promoting highly lucrative business opportunities and demanding immediate investments. Scammers want to rush your decisions and give you no time to research the offers in question.
- Insistence on particular means of making payments, especially gift cards and wire transfers. Scammers will want you to pay via means that are hard to recover or trace.
- Calls from government agencies asking for personal information, like social security numbers and financial details, are scams. Genuine government agencies do not ask for personal information over unsolicited phone calls.
Different government agencies provide resources and assistance for avoiding and reporting scams to Hillsborough County’s residents. These include:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides resources on how to identify common phone scams and on how to stop robocall abuse. The National Do Not Call Registry is also under their jurisdiction. Residents can place their number on the register online or dial 1(888) 382-1222 from the number they wish to put on the list. Victims of phone scams can lodge complaints with the FTC via their complaints assistant.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the watchdog of the telecommunications industry. The FCC has mandated the network operators to provide a more robust caller authentication service to fight phone spoofing. They also offer subscriber information on how to deal with phone spoofing and activate call blocking. Victims can report phone spoofing and other crimes to the FCC online.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office regularly publishes scam alerts for residents of the state. Residents can use the online complaints page file reports about scam incidents. Alternatively, victims of phone scams can reach the Attorney General’s Office by dialing 1 (866) 966-7226.
The Hillsborough County authorities look out for residents by providing dedicated resources that educate residents about prevalent scams. Victims of phone scams may file their complaints online or reach the Consumer Protection Office by dialing (813) 635-8316.The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office provides resources on different scams to residents, accompanied by platforms to lodge complaints. Report scam activities to the Sheriff’s Office by dialing (813) 247-8200. Anonymous tips can be made to the office if there is a need for complete privacy.