What are Stearns County Area Codes?
The only area code serving Stearns County is area code 320. An area code is a three-digit code assigned to a numbering plan area (NPA). When AT&T created the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), it also introduced NPAs and area codes. NPAs were unique sections of North American phone networks corresponding to specific geographical areas. The NANP made call routing and switching across American phone systems more efficient. Furthermore, by creating a unified numeric system, it made it easy to tell the origins of phone calls by the area codes of the numbers used to make those calls. In a typical 10-digit American phone number, the first three digits represent the area code of the location where that number was assigned.
Area Code 320
Created in 1992 from area code 912, area code 320 is the state’s fourth area code and it covers the central portion of Minnesota. In addition to St. Cloud, other communities in Stearns County served by this area code include the cities of Sartell, Sauk Centre, St. Joseph, Paynesville, and Cold Spring.
What are the Best Cell Phone Plans in Stearns County?
Most of the residents of Stearns County and the rest of Minnesota have made the jump from landline phones to wireless communication devices. This is one of the conclusions of a 2018 wireless substitution survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The results of the survey show that 56.2% of adults in Minnesota indicated they only used wireless phones for telecommunication while 4.4% of them still relied exclusively on landline phones. Among residents under the age of 18, the proportion of the demographic that confirmed they were wireless-only phone users was 63.2% while 1.9% of these minors indicated they were landline-only phone users.
Residents of Stearns County can sign up for cell phone plans from major national carriers as well as smaller regional ones. Among the national carriers, AT&T offers the most extensive coverage of Minnesota with its network available in 97.4% of the state. T-Mobile’s coverage of Minnesota stands at 94.5% while Verizon covers 88.3% of the state.
Regional carriers are usually Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) relying on the network infrastructure of national carriers and buying network services from them in bulk. These MVNOs are able to offer cheaper cell phone plans by passing on some of the savings from these bulk network service purchases to their subscribers.
Stearns County residents can also sign up for phone plans offered by VoIP service providers. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a communication technology that enables phone calls over the internet. Residents and organizations signing up for VoIP phone services enjoy cheaper phone bills and can spend less on equipment if they already have broadband internet access. Compared to landline and cell phone services, VoIP makes video calls and long-distance calls cheaper. Users can also make VoIP calls from their tablets and computers in addition to their phones.
What are Stearns County Phone Scams?
These are telephone frauds targeting residents and organizations in Stearns County. Scammers use a number of phone tools and services to contact their targets. These include regular phone calls and text messages as well as robocalls and spam calls. For sophisticated scams, fraudsters use caller ID spoofing and spoofing to trick their victims into believing they are someone else. The goals of phone scammers are to defraud their targets and steal confidential personal information.
Stearns County residents and businesses can fight back with phone tools such as call blocking and reverse phone number lookup. Call blocking filters calls from suspicious numbers while phone lookup can help reveal the true identities of unknown callers. In addition to these tools, residents of Minnesota should learn more about phone scams and how fraudsters operate. The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General identifies the most common scams in the state. These include tax scams, fake check scams, computer scams, and lottery scams.
What are Stearns County Tax Scams?
In tax scams, con artists call unsuspecting residents to demand back taxes while posing as employees of the Internal Revenue Service, the US Department of the Treasury, or law enforcement. While impersonating these authority figures, they threaten their targets with arrest, jail, or prosecution if they do not send the requested payments immediately. In another type of tax scams, the fraudsters aim to steal confidential information for identity theft. They call to tell their victims that they qualify for tax refunds but need their Social Security numbers and other personal information to process the paybacks.
Understanding how the IRS works is the key to avoiding a tax scam. Residents of Stearns County should know that the IRS does not initiate contact by phone. They do so by mail. They also do not direct employees to pay owed taxes to their employers. If you receive a call from a stranger claiming you owe taxes or offering refunds, be wary and investigate them with a suspicious phone number lookup. Report the caller and scam attempt to the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
What are Stearns County Fake Check Scams?
A fake check scam begins with the victim receiving a check that looks legitimate but is, in fact, fake. This may be for payment for services rendered, goods delivered, or a free prize the scammer claims the victim won. However, the amount on the check is in excess of what was promised. So, the scammer asks the victim to send back the difference while they wait for the check to clear. The victim only realizes they have been duped after their bank calls to inform them that they presented a fake check.
When dealing with a stranger, be wary of getting paid with a check. If the amount on the check is higher than what you were expecting, do not send back the excess until you have cleared the check. Note that presenting a fake check is illegal. So, before presenting a check from a stranger, make sure to thoroughly identify them with a phone number search to confirm that you are not being scammed.
What are Stearns County Computer Scams?
These start with phone calls from strangers claiming to represent reputable and known computer companies. These scammers pretend that they are providing tech support and scare their victims by claiming their computers are infected with viruses or suspected to have been hacked. They usually ask for remote access to these machines claiming this is needed to fix them.
A computer repair or tech support scam may lead to the victim losing money for bogus repairs and needless computer security software sold to them by the fraudster. However, letting a stranger access your computer can lead to even worse consequences. The scammer may install malware on the machine to spy on the user, steal confidential information, mine cryptocurrencies in the background, or hold them to ransom. Ransomware attacks are getting increasingly common and they involve scammers locking users of their computers until they pay huge sums of money.
What are Stearns County Lottery Scams?
These are also impostor scams and they trick their victims by luring them with promises of huge winnings. When calling their victims, fraudsters running lottery scams congratulate them on winning lotteries, sweepstakes, or free prizes from similar competitions. After getting their victims excited, they ask them to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars before they can claim their winnings. These sums, they claim, will cover taxes and processing fees.
Do not believe a stranger calling to congratulate you on winning a lottery or sweepstakes you did not enter. Foreign lotteries are a big red flag. Stearns County residents should also know that it is illegal for lottery/sweepstakes organizers to ask winners to pay before handing over their prizes. Anyone asking for an advance fee before sending over your winnings is a scammer. Dig deeper and try to reveal their true identity with a free reverse phone lookup.
What are Robocalls and Spam Calls?
Robocalls are automated calls sent out to lots of phones to deliver pre-recorded messages. When they were first introduced, robocalls were popular with political campaigns, telemarketers, and organizers approved to send out public service announcements. These entities use robocalls because they are low-cost and cost-effective mass communication tools that are easy to set up and use. Scammers embraced robocalls for the same reasons and use them to find new targets over wider geographic areas.
Spam calls are like robocalls but with certain differences. While robocalls are placed by auto-dialers, spam calls are mostly placed by human agents working for telemarketers. Also, most robocall messages are read in machine voice and recorded by voice synthesizers. Spam calls messages are usually delivered according to prepared scripts with the callers able to improvise them.
As scammers and dishonest telemarketers fully adopt robocalls and spam calls, the number of these unwanted calls received by American phone users have risen dramatically. To curb unsolicited calls, lawmakers, consumer protection agencies, and carriers are pushing for lasting solutions involving better call authentication. Before these solutions are implemented, Stearns County residents can stop or cut down the number of robocalls and spam calls received by following these steps:
- Let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. Review them and decide which ones are from legitimate callers
- Hang up a robocall or spam call as soon as you realize what it is
- Do not follow instructions given during such calls on how to remove your number from their call lists. These prompts are meant to confirm active numbers which are then sold to other spammers and scammers
- Identify unknown callers by their numbers using reverse phone lookup. This can help you unmask scammers, spammers, and stalkers and provide important information to include in your reports when you submit complaints to law enforcement
- Use the call blocking feature of your phone to filter unwanted calls from unknown or blacklisted numbers. You can also ask your carrier if they offer a call blocking service or install a reputable call blocking app
- Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. This will stop telemarketing calls after 31 days. Subsequent telemarketing calls received after this period are illegal robocalls and spam calls. Report these to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
How to Spot and Report Stearns County Phone Scams
To spot a phone scam, you must know how phone scams progress and how scammers operate. While con artists modify their scams every now and then, they still retain certain aspects that give them away. Stearns County residents trying to avoid telephone frauds should look out for the following signs of phone scams:
- Threats - scammers impersonating authority figures usually threaten their victims to push them to comply with their demands. They threaten them with arrest, jail, deportation, loss of their homes, and revocation of driver’s, business, and professional licenses
- Odd payment requests - government agencies and legitimate private entities do not ask residents to pay to personal accounts or send payments by cash, wire transfers, gift cards, prepaid debit cards, Venmo transfers, and cryptocurrencies
- Odd information requests - government agencies, credit card companies, the Social Security Administration, and other legitimate entities do not ask residents for information they already have on file. If a caller representing such organizations ask for some personal identity and financial information, do not give it to them even if they claim to need the records for verification
- Pressure to act immediately - fraudsters selling business and investment scams hurry their targets to act quickly and give them very little time to closely consider the offers presented. Do not succumb to aggressive sales tactics from scammers claiming their no-risk high-yield offers will expire very soon
- Reluctance to establish a paper trail - when asked, scammers fail to provide written documentations supporting their claims and proving their identities. When making a big commitment, make sure there is a paper trail of the transaction before signing up or paying
Those who spot these signs while dealing with unknown callers should confirm their suspicions by conducting phone number lookup searches to find out more about these strangers. It is important to report a phone scam whether it is successful or not. These reports help law enforcement agencies decide which fraudsters to pursue. They also contribute to public awareness of telephone frauds and reveal emerging trends in phone scams. Residents of Stearns County can report phone scams to the following authorities:
- The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General - the chief law official in the state prosecutes all crimes including phone scams. Report a consumer scam or telephone fraud to the Attorney General’s Office by calling (651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area) or (800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities). Alternatively, submit a Consumer Assistance Request Form or Fraud Report Form to:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
- The Treasury Inspector General Administration (TIGTA) - this agency investigates and prosecutes all IRS scams including those involving impostors. Residents of Stearns County can file IRS scam complaints with the TIGTA online
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - the FTC protects American consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices. This task involves investigating complaints about consumer scams. Stearns County residents can report phone scams involving consumer transactions to the FTC by calling (877) 382-4357 or filing their fraud complaints online
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - as part of its primary purpose of regulating all communication in the country, the FCC maintains the National Do Not Call Registry. Therefore, residents can report illegal robocalls and spam calls to this agency. The FCC also takes reports of illegal caller ID spoofing, phishing, and phone scams and directs aggrieved phone users to its Consumer Complaint Center to file their complaints
- Local law enforcement agencies - report phone scams to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office or police departments in the county. File a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office by calling (320) 259-3702