PrankNET Pranksters: Telephone Terrorists

Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Update submitted by W.J. Elvin, September 10, 2009: Another criminal prankster nailed…

  • Second Pranknet Member Arrested, The Smoking Gun, September 9, 2009

  • Update submitted by W.J. Elvin III, August 27, 2009: Evil prankster arrested…

  • First Pranknet Arrest, The Smoking Gun, August 26, 2009

  • Editor’s Note: At, we post prank news from around the world. This news varies from the profound to the profane to the pathetic. Readers are encouraged to make their own judgement calls. This story submitted by W.J. Elvin III, as seen on The Smoking Gun, is profoundly disturbing. It’s surprising the people responsible for these pranks are not incarcerated or dead. I have my own criteria about what makes a meaningful prank. This seems like a good place to inject an article I penned a while back for the magazine Extra!, published by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) called The Art of the Con. Joey Skaggs

    Telephone Terrorist: Outing An Online Outlaw, August 4, 2009

    A TSG investigation unmasks the leader of Pranknet and the miscreants behind a year-long wave of phone call criminality

    tt_photonew-200At 4:15 AM on a recent Tuesday, on a quiet, darkened street in Windsor, Ontario, a man was wrapping up another long day tormenting and terrorizing strangers on the telephone. Working from a sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment in a ramshackle building a block from the Detroit River, the man, nicknamed “Dex”, heads a network of so-called pranksters who have spent more than a year engaged in an orgy of criminal activity–vandalism, threats, harassment, impersonation, hacking, and other assorted felonies and misdemeanors–targeting U.S. businesses and residents.

    Coalescing in an online chat room, members of the group, known as Pranknet, use the telephone to carry out cruel and outrageous hoaxes, which they broadcast live around-the-clock on the Internet. Masquerading as hotel employees, emergency service workers, and representatives of fire alarm companies, “Dex” and his cohorts have successfully prodded unwitting victims to destroy hotel rooms and lobbies, set off sprinkler systems, activate fire alarms, and damage assorted fast food restaurants.

    But while Pranknet’s hoaxes have caused millions of dollars in damages, it is the group’s efforts to degrade and frighten targets that makes it even more odious. For example, a bizarre July 20 prank ended with a hotel worker actually sipping from a urine sample provided by a guest at a Homewood Suites in Kentucky. Additionally, at least twice this year, fast food workers–fearing that they would suffer burns after being doused by chemicals from a fire suppression system–stripped off their clothes on the sidewalk outside their respective restaurants.

    “Dex”, who took his nickname from the lead character in “Dexter,” the Showtime series about a serial killer who murders serial killers, is bitingly contemptuous of law enforcement and its ability to stop Pranknet or locate its members. When a victim warns him that they are contacting police, he laughs derisively and offers to provide cops with a crayon to trace his number. He and his followers place their prank calls via Skype, confident that the Internet phone service sufficiently cloaks their identities and whereabouts.

    By any measure, “Dex” is a sociopath, a mean-spirited sadist who spews a barrage of racial epithets, vulgarities, and threats, and clearly enjoys the panic, fear, and damage he causes.

    While his frauds and sinister manipulations often rely on naive and compliant dupes, “Dex” prefers to make it appear that he is practicing some mysterious alchemy. “About to social engineer some people into doing wild shit,” he announced in a late-May Twitter post.

    As the leader of what is essentially an online criminal organization, “Dex” has been careful to cloak details about his life and specific location, relying on a small circle of Pranknet confidants to help underwrite the operation and conduct financial transactions on his behalf.

    But a seven-week investigation by The Smoking Gun has begun to unravel “Dex”‘s organization and chronicle the sprawl of its criminality. The TSG probe has also stripped Pranknet’s leader and some of his cohorts of their anonymity, which will likely come as welcome news to the numerous law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, probing the group’s activities.

    Read the rest of this article and listen to some of the pranks here.

    Related links:

  • FBI Probes PrankNET Over Hotel Pranks
  • Hotel Prank Epidemic?
  • Phone Prank Devastates Holiday Inn