Members of Central Florida’s hotel and hospitality industry said they have trained workers to watch out for these pranksters to avoid property damage.
“We’re glad the [Orange County] Sheriff’s Office has been keeping an eye on these and getting to hotel employees prior to anything happening anywhere,” said Brian Martin, communications director for Visit Orlando, formerly known as Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Deputies at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said a clerk at an International Drive-area hotel received an automated call from an unknown caller Feb. 9 saying to pull the fire alarm and activate fire sprinklers because of a blaze in the hotel.
Cpl. Marcus Camacho of the Sheriff’s Office said employees in both incidents immediately disconnected the call and didn’t heed the callers’ warnings — a positive sign the hotel industry is on to these pranksters.
For Central Florida, an area synonymous with tourism and hospitality, the pranks pose a particular danger to travelers, the hotel industry and local law-enforcement officers, who must be pulled from other duties to respond to the bogus incidents.
Similar pranksters in 2009 succeeded in tricking hotel employees and guests — including an Indian River County sheriff’s deputy — to trash hotel rooms, causing thousands of dollars in damage to hotel property and personal belongings.
The sheriff’s corporal has been following these incidents for several years and thinks many of them are possibly linked to a Canadian group called PrankNet or a copycat caller.
The group, also known as Prank University and PrankU, has gained notoriety across the country. Pranks the group orchestrates are often played live over a members-only Internet chat room and have led victims to destroy private property in an effort to save themselves from what they perceive as imminent danger.
For more: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-02-23/news/os-hotel-pranknet-calls-20110223_1_pranknet-hotel-room-gas-leak