A Canadian teenager has been sentenced to two years of house arrest for making prank calls over his computer's Internet telephone persuading local businesses to turn on their fire sprinkler systems.
On Feb. 11 and 13, the 17-year-old boy called 19 hotels and businesses in the North Vancouver, British Columbia, area to tell employees there was a fire and they needed to turn on their sprinklers.
"In a number of cases, the caller succeeded, causing more than $100,000 in damages," the police told Vancouver's North Shore News.
Officers initially thought the crank calls came from the United States but were able to trace them back to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network at the prankster's home.
"It's unusual to get prank calls elevated to the level of criminal investigation," Cpl. Richard De Jong, a North Vancouver police spokesman, was quoted as telling the North Shore News. "The destruction got to the place where it needed immediate action. It wasn't just a prank call anymore; it was truly a criminal matter."
The teenager, who often posed as a fire official in his calls, was found guilty Aug. 8 of 12 counts of conveying false messages. Along with being placed under house arrest, he was prohibited from using a cellphone, drinking alcohol or contacting any of the establishments named in the case, which include the North Vancouver Hotel, Nando's Chicken, McDonalds', Subway, A&W and Denny's.
VoIP spoofing — tricking your Internet call provider to display a number other than your own — can have serious consequences.
A few weeks ago, noted cybersafety advocate Parry Aftab became the victim of a " swatting " scam; using a VoIP service, scammers told police that a man had killed four people and taken another hostage in Aftab's suburban New Jersey home. Within minutes, a SWAT team arrived, beginning a three-hour standoff that ended with them firing a teargas bomb through her home, only to find it empty.