The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) divided telephone service regions into Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs) to ease long-distance phone calls. To differentiate each NPA, the NANP assigns a sequence of three-digit numbers to them known as area codes. Whatcom County area codes identify the origins and destinations of phone calls in the county. The Washington State Utilities and Transport Commission (UTC) manages and implements area codes in Whatcom County.
Two area codes currently serve Whatcom County. These are:
Area Code 360
This is a Washington telephone area code that was put into service in 1995. Split from the 206 NPA, area code 360 covers Whatcom County and some parts of several other counties in Washington. The major cities within this NPA in Whatcom County include Ferndale, Bellingham, and Lynden.
Area Code 564
Area code 564 is an overlay to the 360 NPA that became active in 2017. All the cities served by area code 360 are within this NPA.
What are the Best Cell Phone Plans in Whatcom County?
Although Whatcom County residents enjoy network coverage by several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are the major cell phone carriers in Washington. Within the City of Bellingham in Whatcom County, T-mobile offers the best coverage, with signals available almost everywhere in the city at 98%. Verizon comes second with 86% coverage, while AT&T has a 62% spread. Sprint has no coverage at all in Bellingham City.
Many Whatcom County residents have switched from landlines to wireless telephony services, as documented in a 2018 CDC survey. The data showed that only 5.0% of adult Washingtons still used landline-only telephony services while 58.2% had adopted cell phones for telecommunications exclusively. Wireless telephony service adoption is even higher among children, under 18 years, in Washington. About 66.6% of the children demographic used wireless-only telephony services, while 2.3% of them still depended solely on landlines.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that routes voice calls, video calls, and texts as data packets over the internet. It is an alternative to traditional telephony services in Whatcom County and allows residents to make long-distance calls at affordable rates. Since VoIP requires IP networks such as the internet to function, users must have internet-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers to enjoy its services.
What are Whatcom County Phone Scams?
Whatcom County phone scams are frauds committed against county residents over the phone. Well-known phone services used to perpetrate phone scams are text messages, robocalls, and live phone calls. Generally, phone scammers favor phone spoofing when preying on Whatcom County residents. They manipulate their targets' Caller IDs to display phone numbers of reputable businesses and familiar government agencies to fool them into answering. Phone scammers use different tactics to con residents depending on the prevailing situation at the time of preying on their targets. Sometimes, they may be calm and appear willing to help. At other times, they are aggressive and will stop at nothing to extort their marks. The primary aim of scammers is to steal money or obtain confidential information for identity and financial theft.
The following public agencies are making frantic effort to combat phone scams in Whatcom County and provide protection for residents against scams:
- Washington State Attorney General’s Office
- Whatcom County Sheriff's Office (WCSO)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The prevalent phone scams in Whatcom County include:
What are Whatcom County Investment Scams?
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AG) warns residents against falling victims to investment scams being perpetrated in Whatcom County. In investment scams, fraudsters deceive their marks by promising high returns on investment. They also assure residents of the safety of their investments. These fraudsters are good at what they do and know how to convince their marks into sending money and tell them they can back out of such investments anytime they want and still get their principal in full. These scams take various forms. They include the popular Ponzi schemes, fix-and-flip housing schemes, and oil and gas investment schemes. The most targeted persons in Whatcom County are the senior residents who seek to invest their retirement funds.
Do not put money in an investment scheme that you have not verified its legitimacy. Regardless of the caller's persuasion, make sure to take your time to consider if what you are being offered is a good deal or a scam. If you are considering trying out the offer, consult with someone who has broad experience in investments and whom you can trust. Note that government agencies do not regulate many of the investment schemes being offered to residents. Be wary of unknown persons who contact residents with investment offers and solicit investor money to avoid losing your hard-earned money. The AGO cautions residents never to share personal or financial information with such callers to avoid becoming victims of identity and financial theft. If you receive such a call, gather as much information as possible, hang up, and report to your local law enforcement agency. Run the caller's phone number through reverse phone number search applications to retrieve identifying information about them.
What are Whatcom County Tech Support Scams?
In Tech support scams, fraudsters contact unsuspecting Whatcom County residents and pose as employees of reputable tech firms such as Apple, Microsoft, or Dell. They are out to steal their targets' money and identities, but reverse phone lookup applications can help residents recognize them and avoid such scams. They will claim to have detected threatening viruses and malware on their marks' computers that must be fixed immediately. To save such computers from such impending attacks and possible file loss, the scammers will request to be granted remote access to such PCs. Once they gain entry, the scammers will feign actual repairs and later request payment for their phony services. In most instances, these fraudsters take advantage of such access to deploy malware capable of gleaning targets' personal information from their computers for identity theft in the future. They have a preference for receiving payments by money transfers and gift cards. On some occasions, they may request victims' credit card numbers and PINs to complete payment.
Legitimate tech companies will never call consumers to offer tech support over the phone. Many of these calls come from foreign countries, but scammers spoof Caller IDs to make them appear like domestic calls. Applications that provide reverse phone lookup free services can help you identify spoofed phone calls and avoid this scam. If you receive a call like this, hang up your phone immediately. Do not be pressured into granting remote access by unknown persons to your computers, especially if you did not initiate the contact. Also, do not share your credit card details with anyone over the phone to avoid being ripped off.
What are Whatcom County Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams?
If you receive a call from someone who claims to be with a lottery company, search the caller's phone number using a phone lookup application to retrieve their identity. Scammers, pretending to be representatives of legitimate lottery companies, call Whatcom County residents and inform them of lottery winnings. They usually call in the most exciting voice anyone can imagine. The scammers then tell the "winners" that all they need to do to claim their winnings is to make some mandatory upfront payments to cover shipping, handling, and taxes. During such phone calls, they will ask for their marks' date of birth, full names, and social security numbers, and addresses for supposed documentation and processing. It is a ploy to obtain such information to commit identity theft. They often request payments via gift cards or wire transfers, feigning a readiness to help them through the process. In some cases, these fraudsters will ask for their victims' credit card information to complete the payment from their ends.
Legitimate lottery companies do not charge winners upfront fees to redeem their winnings. It is important to state that it is illegal for any company to request money to either play sweepstakes or to claim prizes. Note that if you win a lottery, the company will not contact you. If you receive such a call, know that it is a scam call, and you should hang up immediately. Do not be fooled into complying with such a caller's demands, especially if you did not enter such a lottery contest.
What are Whatcom County Debt Collection Scams?
Phone scammers claim to be with familiar debt collection agencies and contact Whatcom County residents in a bid to rip them off. They often claim to be acting on the instructions of their clients, who are allegedly their targets' creditors. Sometimes, they attempt to collect loans that have been fully paid or that do not even exist anywhere. Targeted residents are informed that they have outstanding loans, which they must pay immediately to avoid arrest or other extreme legal actions against them. Such loans may include mortgage loans, auto loans, payday loans, credit cards, or payday loans. The fraudsters are known for demanding payments by wire transfers, gift cards and sometimes ask their marks to share credit card details to complete repayment.
Whatcom County residents should know that legitimate debt collectors do not request loan repayment via unconventional payment channels. If you receive this type of call, verify who the caller is and what agency they represent by asking questions. Do not be pressured into sending money to them. In many cases, the caller will attempt to avoid your questions. If you have reasons to think the claim might be legitimate, hang up and contact your creditor using the contact information on your original contract papers. You can run the caller's phone number through a reverse phone lookup application to confirm their real identity.
What are Robocalls and Spam Calls?
Robocalls are automated telephone calls that deliver pre-recorded messages to selected phone numbers. They are used by telemarketers, political campaign organizations, and government agencies in making public service announcements. Robocalls have a wide-reaching ability and can deliver messages anonymously, which is why scammers favor them in their deceptive schemes. To increase their chances of success and avoid being tracked by law enforcement, scammers often change robocall numbers to hide their identities. Online services offering phone number lookups free can verify robocall numbers. Fraudsters also spoof the official numbers of legitimate entities when preying on their targets.
Spam calls are inappropriate automated calls delivered to persons who have not shown interest in getting these calls. Robocalls are a form of spam call and are mostly unwanted. The FTC provides tips for blocking unwanted calls on its website.
The best options to address the menace of illegal robocalls and avoid scams robocalls include:
- Use the call-blocking features available on your phone to block identified robocall and spam numbers from calling you in the future.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Once your number has been on this list for 31 days, it is restricted from getting calls from legitimate telemarketers. If you are still receiving robocalls after registration, they are most likely scam calls.
- End the call once you identify it as a robocall. Disregard any instruction prompting you to press a number to speak with live operators or remove yourself from the robocall’s list. If you obey such prompts, you will only be inundated with more robocalls.
- Report illegal robocall numbers and robocall abuse with the FTC online or call 1 (888) 382-1222.
How Can You Spot and Report Whatcom County Phone Scams?
Whatcom County residents can spot phone scams by educating themselves with scam alerts published periodically by the various consumer protection agencies. Remaining vigilant, especially when on the phone with unknown callers, is also crucial in identifying potential scams. The following are signs that an unknown caller is attempting to scam you:
- The caller claims to be with a reputable organization or a government agency but aggressively solicits confidential information. Legitimate entities will never request confidential information over the phone.
- The caller poses as law enforcement and threatens you with legal actions for not acting immediately as instructed. Legitimate law enforcement will never resort to using threats on residents over the phone.
- The caller claims you won in a lottery competition you did not enter or bought the ticket and asks you to make upfront payments before claiming your winnings. Note that no one can win a prize in a contest they did not enter in the first place.
- The caller offers business and investment opportunities with high returns and low risks and wants your immediate financial commitment. Only scammers will act in that manner. Legitimate entities will allow you ample time to consider their offers and will not insist on you making a decision right on the phone.
- The caller requests payments via odd methods such as prepaid debit cards, gift cards, and wire transfers. These are scammers' preferred mediums of getting paid. Legitimate organizations will never ask to be paid through such means.
Residents who have been victims of phone scams in Whatcom County can contact any of these public agencies for prompt support:
Federal Communications Commission - The FCC educates consumers on identifying caller ID spoofing and blocking unwanted calls. Victims of phone spoofing scams and other phone scams in Whatcom County can file complaints online with the FCC.
Washington State Attorney General’s Office - The Consumer Protection Division of the AG's Office provides consumer alerts to protect residents and keep them abreast of current scams. Victims of phone scams in Whatcom County can contact the AG’s Office on 1 (800) 551-4636 or file complaints online. Those outside Washington can reach the AG's Office on 1 (206) 464-6684.
Whatcom County Sheriff's Office - Whatcom County residents who are victims of phone scams can file reports with the WCSO at (360) 778-6600.