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What are Pinellas County Area Codes?

The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) was introduced to cope with the expanding population and ease telephone call routing in the nation. The NANP assigned distinct Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs), commonly known as area codes, to different telephone service areas. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delegated area code management to the utility commissions in each state. In Florida, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) manages area codes.

Only one area code serves Pinellas County and this is:

Area Code 727

Area code 727 became active in 1998 and currently serves Pinellas County and surrounding counties. Pinellas County communities under this area code are St Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park, Dunedin, East Lake, Tarpon Springs, Lealman, and Seminole.

What are the Best Cell Phone Plans in Pinellas County?

Pinellas County residents, like the rest of Florida, are shifting away from landline phones towards mobile wireless and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services. A 2020 PSC report captured the decline in the use of landlines. Between December 2018 and December 2019, landline subscriptions in the state declined from 1.9 million to 1.6 million. According to the report, from 2015 to 2019, there was a 51% decline in landline subscriptions. In contrast, wireless subscriptions maintained consistent growth, and there were about 21.8 million wireless subscriptions in Florida as of year-end 2019.

AT&T offers the most comprehensive cell coverage in Florida, covering 99.2% of the state. Verizon’s 99% coverage is a close second, with T-Mobile further behind with 89.7%. Sprint completes the quartet of national carriers and boasts a coverage of 83%.

VoIP relies on broadband internet to connect telephone calls, a difference that allows it to provide many features to subscribers at lower rates than traditional phone services. Business owners in Pinellas County have found this versatility cost-effective and they are at the forefront of the switch to VoIP. The PSC report cited an FCC report indicating there are over 4.5 million VoIP subscriptions in Florida.

What are Pinellas County Phone Scams?

These phone scams are fraudulent acts executed via telephony services against Pinellas County residents. Scammers use live phone calls, messages relayed by automated machines, and text messages to steal money and personal information from their marks. The Division of Inspector General in Pinellas County highlighted the top 10 scams that plagued county residents, and Americans in general, in 2019. These scams include:

What are Spoofing Scams?

Scammers employ spoofing to change their caller IDs to ones their targets recognize to increase the odds of successfully conning victims. With spoofed caller IDs, con artists contact targets and steal funds or personal data. Pinellas County residents are advised to always crosscheck the claims of any friend, institution, or government agency by initiating contact through verified means. Victims of these phone spoofing scams can report them to the Consumer Protection Department of Pinellas County by dialing (727) 464-6200 or via email.

What are Fake Prizes, Sweepstakes, or Free Gifts Scams?

Scammers using these cons tell victims that they have won free prizes and sweepstakes even in competitions they never entered in. However, these free rewards are only redeemable after making certain upfront payments or submitting bank information. Pinellas County residents should note that phone calls that promise redemption of prizes or lotteries after payments are most likely from scammers. Report these scams to the Consumer Protection Department on (727) 464-6200.

What are Fake Check Scams?

Criminals pay their victims with fake checks with amounts above the total agreed. They then convince their targets to return the differences as wire transfers. Victims only learn they have been issued fake checks after the issued checks fail to clear and after sending money to their scammers. Do not send money in hopes of recouping it when checks from unfamiliar people clear. Report fake check scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What are Advance Fee Loans and Credit Arrangers Scams?

Pinellas County residents with poor credit histories are the targets of this scam. Fraudsters offer previously inaccessible loans (owing to bad credit rating) and credit building to their marks. Targets are asked to pay some fees in advance for phony loans and fake credit building. Authorities warn residents only to accept loan offers from verified companies. Unsolicited calls that promise guaranteed loans without the necessary credit history checks are usually from scammers. Victims of these scams should immediately report to the Consumer Protection Department on (727) 464-6200.

What are Tech Support Scams?

Con artists introduce themselves as support staff of major tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and HP. These criminals convince unsuspecting residents to give them control of their computer systems remotely in order to remove malware or carry out other made-up urgent fixes. After the bogus fixes, they charge exorbitant fees for their services. Scammers may also upload malware to their victims’ computers to steal confidential information, lock them out, or surreptitiously mine cryptocurrencies.

Authorities advise Pinellas County residents not to accept any unsolicited offer of computer repairs or provide strangers with remote access to their computers. Victims of this scam are to carry out thorough scans on their devices to remove suspicious files and programs and change their passwords immediately. Use the FTC online complaint assistant to report these scams.

What are Investment Related Scams?

Scammers offer phony investment opportunities that promise high returns for little or no risk to extort money from unwary targets. They present their victims with investment opportunities in gold coins, precious metals, real estate, and cryptocurrencies. Scammers usually claim these opportunities are fleeting and require their victims to make snap decisions, leaving no time for adequate research. Pinellas County residents are advised to thoroughly research any business or company before making any investments with them. Victims of investment scams should file reports with the FTC.

What are Family/Friend Imposter Scams?

Fraudsters call targets, assuming the identities of close friends or relatives supposedly in distress, and request urgent wire transfers or gift cards. Usually, an accomplice acts as an authority figure with the power to help out the relative in distress once the target makes payments. Imposter scammers may provide details about impersonated friends or relatives. These are usually sourced from social media pages to make their sob stories credible. Pinella County residents should always confirm such stories with trusted sources before acceding to any requests. Family or friend imposter scams should be reported to the Consumer Protection Department on (727) 464-6200.

What are Robocalls and Spam Calls?

Robocalls relay pre-recorded messages to large audiences simultaneously. They are placed by auto dialers calling lists of random or selected numbers. Robocalls are genuine telemarketing tools that have been co-opted by scammers as another means of reaching their targets.

The Florida Telemarketing Act was passed to limit the nuisance of spam calls and protect residents from robocall scams. Phone manufacturers also provide tools to fight the menace of spam calls. Mobile phones come with call filtering and call blocking features that can be activated as protection against spam calls and robocalls. Call filtering and blocking applications are also provided by telephone carriers and third-party developers and come in paid and free versions.

Pinellas County residents should take the following steps to reduce and stop robocalls:

  • Do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers. Allow the calls to go to voicemail, go through your voicemail, and call those that left messages.
  • End any robocall you inadvertently answered. Do not press any button, if instructed.
  • Make inquiries about the call blocking services available to you and block suspicious phone numbers.
  • Download call blocking apps and use them if the service is unavailable from your network operator.
  • Register on both the National Do Not Call Registry and Florida Do Not Call List. These registers keep away legitimate telemarketers, making subsequent robocalls suspicious.
  • Report robocall abuse to the FTC or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Reverse phone lookups are useful in preventing phone scams. Fraudsters hide their real identities and assume different personas to trick victims. Phone number lookups can lift these cloaks of anonymity to reveal callers’ real identities and warn residents about suspicious scam transactions.

How to Spot and Report Pinellas County Phone Scams?

Enticements, threats, and coercion are common tools fraudsters regularly deploy to get the better of their victims. Pinellas County residents should take note of the following signs when determining whether strange callers are scammers:

  • Promises of prizes, free gifts, and lottery winnings that come with the condition of upfront payments before redemption.
  • Aggressive phone calls from law enforcement and government agents that threaten arrest over unpaid taxes, tickets, and missed court appearances.
  • Investment opportunities that give you no time to carefully research them and consult third parties.
  • Supposedly official transactions that require you to make payments through unofficial channels like cryptocurrency, gift cards, and wire transfers. Fraudsters favor these payment channels because funds sent through these means are hard to recover.
  • Random unsolicited phone calls by representatives of government agencies or financial institutions demanding personal information.
  • Robocalls received after registering on both the National Do Not Call Registry and Florida Do Not Call List.

Several government agencies release regular scam alerts to help Pinellas County residents avoid falling victim to phone scams. The periodic alerts notify residents of different phone scams and provide ways to avoid and report them. Pinellas County residents receive updates on scams from these agencies:

Local Authorities

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office created the Criminal Investigations arm to probe scam activities and bring criminals to justice. Pinellas County residents should report scam incidents to the Sheriff’s Office by calling (727) 582-6200 or submitting a tip online.

The Consumer Protection Department of Pinellas County provides numerous resources on scams to county residents. Residents can submit complaints on scams to the department via the number (727) 464-6200 or by email.

State Department

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) provides resources on scam identification and ways of avoiding them to residents. The FDACS also manages Florida Do Not Call List that keeps away legitimate telemarketers, making it simpler to identify and avoid potential scams. Robocall abuse can be reported to the FDACS online, while reports on scam activities are received on (800) 435-7352.

Federal Agencies

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the regulator of the telecommunications industry. They provide subscribers with resources on how to identify spoofing and activate call blocking. The FCC has mandated network operators to improve caller authentication services to eradicate spoofing at no cost to subscribers. Report scam activities to the FCC online.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was created to protect consumers’ interests. Their guides on identifying common phone scams and avoiding robocalls are essential for phone scam awareness and education. The National Do Not Call Registry that keeps away legitimate telemarketers is also under the FTC’s supervision. Victims of phone scams should use the online complaint assistant to lodge complaints.