One More Reason for a Sleepless Night at the Hotel

Here is another factor that may contribute to a less than perfect night's rest the next time you sleep in a hotel room:

Please, sir, do not throw your toilet out the window, no matter what the stranger on the phone is telling you.

If the phone in your hotel room rings unexpectedly at 2 in the morning, you might soon become the next victim of a network of scammers who are causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage at accommodations around the country.

Often imitated and deviously duplicated, a group called PrankNET appears to be at the center of a growing trend that has harried hoteliers and restaurateurs for months and is now being investigated by the FBI.

The head of PrankNET, who goes by the online name "dex" and has been behaving badly since 2000, leads an online chat system where he and fellow merry pranksters collaborate. Members of PrankNET chat online, stream their calls live on an Internet radio show and post their greatest hits to a YouTube page, a popular breeding ground for more pranks.

During their calls they often drop the name of a security corporation or say they are phoning from a hotel's front desk to lend themselves an air of credibility — and to get their victims to do surprising things.

In February, Dex's work made headlines when he called a KFC in Manchester, N.H., and convinced workers there to douse the restaurant with fire suppression chemicals, evacuate the building and strip outside in freezing temperatures. Dex accomplished all of this by pretending to be their boss from a corporate office.

Calls recently posted to PrankNET's YouTube channel have upped the ante even further, capturing scenes where confused hotel patrons have been duped into setting off fire alarms and sprinkler systems — flooding hotels and panicking sleeping guests.

A Florida family staying in an Orlando Hilton was tricked last week into smashing windows, breaking a mirror, bashing in a wall with a lamp and tossing their mattress outside, causing about $5,000 in damage, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The caller persuaded them to do all of that in order to save themselves from a gas leak...
As unbelievable as some of the successes of the online hucksters, the funniest two sentences in the article are likely these:

...The sheer difficulty of tracing prank calls placed online, and the social-networking programs used by pranksters, has increased their visibility and daring.

Last week, a North Carolina teenager was indicted in federal court for allegedly phoning in bomb threats to colleges and universities — and taking payments to threaten specific high schools, canceling classes for anyone who'd put $5 into his PayPal account...
But wait, aren’t Internet phone calls difficult to trace? How did this felony defendant get caught?

Ha, I assume it cost authorities five dollars made payable to a very traceable PayPal account that resulted in our high-tech criminal dialing a few numbers and earning a stay at one of his area’s fine detention facilities.

Note: the teen’s mom appears ready for a legal fight and she and her son adamantly deny the charges.


Natalie said...

I'm going to be staying in a hotel for the next few days this weekend! Thanks for the head's up. ;)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

You know, I am pretty gullible, but somehow, I know I wouldn't toss out my toilet without confirming this with a manager or a higher authority. DUH.

mappchik said...

What!? Really?!

I'm not worried I'll fall prey to this during my next hotel stay, but it's good to know there's one more set of stupid teenage pranks going on my list off "things I hope & pray my teen never hears of"