What you're about to read are PLA's official Rules of Prank Calling. If you're ready to delve into the amazing world of making prank phone calls, then you should spend just a few minutes reading this handy online guide so that even your first attempts at prank calling will seem somewhat professional and you might even avoid getting yourself arrested or killed.
All of my rules revolve trying to keep the authorities uninvolved in your prank calls, which is good for everyone. Involving the police in your pranks is not only a threat to your own freedom, but it also ties up emergency services. Even if you live in a small town that never has any crime, you still shouldn't bother the police with your prank calls. Trust me, there are plenty of ways to have fun with prank calls that don't involve the police. Follow these guidelines for a long, illustrious, jail-free career in prank calling...
- Don't involve emergency services. This is rule #1 and should be common sense, because when you start involving emergency services, your local police are suddenly interested in your prank calls and you may find yourself getting fined or arrested. So as hilarious as you think it will be, don't send the police or fire department to your victim's house and don't make silly prank calls to 911 or local police stations. Prank calls should be fun, not felonies!
- Don't make threats. Why? Because making threats, even when you don't mean it, is a crime. Threats scare people and then they call the police over a silly prank call, and suddenly you're breaking Rule #1. Don't threaten to kill anyone. Don't threaten to slap anyone. Don't threaten to blow up cars and houses. Don't call Wal-Mart and attempt to convince employees of a Code Red or a Code Blue. (Those are Wal-Mart's internal codes for bombs and fires and people have done that many times.) Threats are bad and can result in your arrest.
- Don't impersonate the police. You can't pretend to be a police officer or an FBI agent over the phone. Not only is this illegal, but once your victim becomes suspicious of your call, they might call back the agency that you're pretending to be with to confirm your identity and guess what? The police become involved in your pranks. The police don't like it when ordinary citizens pretend to be them.
- Don't call emergency hotlines. Suicide hotlines are off limits. Come on, do you really want to tie up the lines at a place that tries to keep people from killing themselves? Don't mess with hotlines that are designed to help people. You're not being original at all when you pretend that you want to kill yourself to a hotline worker. It's been done a bazillion times before. Check out this article where Carlito from Madhouse Radio was arrested for prank calling an anger management hotline. If you can get arrested for prank calling something as silly as an anger management line, then you can definitely get arrested for calling a suicide hotline.
- Don't cause damage. Some prank callers have shown us that people are gullible and will fall for absolutely anything if you sound authoritative enough. This tidbit of information is good to know and will aid you in making hilarious, epic prank calls. However, you should never exploit this fact to cause another person damage property or hurt people. PrankNet is known for causing people to pull fire alarms, set off sprinklers and break hotel windows. Members of PrankNet are also known for doing serious jail time for calls like these. Other prank callers have succeeded in making store employees cut wires on their computers with scissors or destroy items around them. One prank caller even convinced fast food managers to sexually assault his employees while he listened. Don't do things like this! It's fun to exploit the stupidity of humans, but you should stick to making them do things that are hilarious, rather than things that are harmful or destructive and things that will get you arrested.
- Avoid the police at all costs. Your prank call victims will often overreact and call the police even if you're doing your best by not making threats and not involving the police. When you think this is a possibility with your victim, maybe it's time to let them know that they've been pranked. Explain to them that you're not really who you say you are and that you're simply a prank caller who chose them at random and that their calls to the police will be pointless since you're on the other side of the country. Apologize, laugh at them, and move on.
- Don't steal personal data. It's easy to trick people out of their personal information, but you should be careful when doing this because once the victim finds out that you're not who you say you are, they might assume that you're an identity thief. I know this is unlikely, but once you've talked them out of a bunch of information, your victim's imagination will run wild and they could begin assuming the worst and end up calling the police to report a case of attempted identity theft. Talking someone out of their credit card numbers or other account numbers can get you into trouble, even if you didn't write them down and had no intention of using them.
- Don't prank locally. The easiest way to get yourself arrested for prank calling is to make calls in your own city. When you make local prank calls, it's easy for your victim to call the local police and work with the local phone company to find out who called them. By sticking to far away places, you're confounding the entire situation and making it nearly impossible for anyone to track you down. I don't mean technologically impossible, but legally pointless. When you prank someone on the other side of the country, it's no longer the simple act of calling the local police to show up at your house and talk to you. Suddenly your victim has to deal with multiple police departments and multiple phone companies and it's just not worth the time or effort for anyone to deal with it. Unless you're threatening people or doing any of the other horrible things mentioned in the rules above, it's extremely unlikely that any authorities are going to help your victim since they know that they can't drive 3,000 miles to arrest you. If you prank locally, especially from your own phone line, you are approximately a billion times more likely to have the police show up at your house.
- Only one call per victim. Don't keep calling the same guy over and over and over, no matter how much he makes you laugh when he screams at you. When you keep calling the same person repeatedly, you're suddenly harassing your victim instead of making a simple funny prank phone call to them. Try to keep it to a single prank phone call, maybe two, and then stop forever and move on to someone else. This will help keep the police completely uninterested in you.
One of the most important aspects of prank phone calls is keeping yourself somewhat anonymous. If your victim sees your name and phone number on their caller I.D. display, it's going to be harder to convince them that you're calling from a major company. And if your victim knows your phone number, then they're obviously going to try and take some kind of action against you. Here are a few ideas on keeping your number hidden from the people you call.
- Dial *67 before you call anyone. *67 is the universal code for blocking your number from a person's caller ID display. While this is the most primitive method of keeping yourself anonymous, it's still an effective way of hiding your number if you're making a single, harmless prank call to someone. *67 will not protect you if the police become involved. *67 usually doesn't protect you against *69 (automatic call back) and never protects you against *57 (call trace). *67 will rarely protect you when you dial a toll-free number since they use a different system. Some internet-based telephone services such as Skype and Google Voice won't let you dial *67 from their lines. So *67 is best used from a home phone or from a cell phone.
- Use internet telephones. Services like Skype and Google Voice are perfect for prank calls. Since they're not tied to a physical location, it's harder for your calls to be traced by authorities. (Not that you're doing anything that would warrant the authorities attention, right????) As of this writing, Skype is only a few dollars a month and Google Voice comes free with your free Google account. When you initially set up Skype, it should let you chose if you want your number to display for people or not. Choose not! Google Voice doesn't let you hide your number (or even use *67), but since you're using an internet-based telephone number, it's going to be nearly impossible for you to be found as long as you're making prank calls that adhere to the rules of prank calling on this page.
Don't think that you're completely anonymous and unfindable just because you're using these services, though. Once you start breaking laws, the police know how to figure out which services you're using and how to obtain warrants on those companies. They will trace the phone calls you've made to your email address and/or your home IP address (and every IP address you've ever used with that account) and they will find out who you are. I've read many news article about prank callers who've been arrested for making prank calls with Skype. It's not that difficult for them to find you if you give them a reason to.
- Use caller I.D. spoofing. Companies like Spoofcard allow you to actually change the number that people see on their caller I.D. display. This is a really great service to use when you're pranking someone and pretending to be from a certain company. When their caller I.D. display tells your victim that you're calling from the local Domino's Pizza, they have no reason to think that you're not. Many people are completely unaware that caller I.D. spoofing exists, so this is a good thing to use to your advantage. The only downside is that spoofing services will charge you a few cents per minute to use this service. And don't forget, even with caller I.D. spoofing, you're only anonymous until you involve the police in your pranks.
- Use a pay phone. Back when I was a kid, there were these mystical devices outside of most businesses called "pay phones." You could drop a few quarters into one and make completely anonymous phone calls with them. Pay phones are rumored to still exist today in some areas and you might be able to find one to aid in your prank calls. If your prank call causes enough grief and anguish, be prepared for the police to start looking a security camera footage and lifting fingerprints from the pay phone to put you away for life. Because of this, it's best to wear a ski mask and mittens when prank calling from a pay phone.
- Use other phones that aren't yours. You can sometimes find yourself with access to a phone inside of a department store or other business, which could be used to make prank calls. You could borrow a cell phone from a friend or a stranger, so that they'll be left to deal with the fallout from your prank calls. Some people have even been known to carry a small phone with them and plug it into unattended phone jacks inside of a Wal-Mart or in the back of a neighbor's house. But come on, we're getting ridiculous here. No prank call is worth this much time and effort, right?
- Prepaid cell phones. It's easy to buy a prepaid wireless phone from any department store or even a 7-Eleven. When you sign up for service on these, they don't require you to give them any information. They're completely anonymous, unless you're using it from your home since they all have GPS in them. The downside is that they cost money.
- Be prepared. Know exactly what you're going to say as soon as they pick up the phone. If you hesitate or stutter or sound unsure of yourself, you're letting them know that you're a prank caller. I'm not saying you need to script out your entire call, but at least be prepared with that opening line. First impressions are important. After that, just wing it.
- Be silly, not serious. This is important. Too many prank callers take themselves way too seriously, which, in my opinion, kind of takes the fun out of it. Don't worry about if you're believable or not or if they catch on and bust you. Who cares? Just call your target, be as weird as possible, and have fun. If you're trying to trick your victim, do that first and then be silly at them. Personally I'm a fan of prank calls that fall apart at the end and you get to hear the victims find out that they've been had. Or better yet, the victims attempt to outsmart you.
- Don't Laugh. Especially right at the beginning of the call, because your victim will immediately know that it's a prank call and hang up the phone. Know where your mute button is and learn how to use it when you start snickering! Only begin laughing at them when the prank starts falling apart and you know that they're not believing you anyway. Also, laughing at the end of a prank may help your victim understand that it's just a dumb prank and they shouldn't feel stressed about it or bother the police with it.
- A conversation is not a prank call. I hear a lot of "prank calls" that are nothing more than a guy having a conversation with his victim, occasionally throwing in moderately funny things into the conversation. The entire prank consists of the prank caller thinking it's funny that he's pretending to be someone that he's not. Put a little more effort into your calls than this! Make sure the call is funny to other people who will hear it, not just you and your friends who know the victim.
- Keep it short. Extremely long prank calls can sometimes be funny, but who has time to listen for that long? People have short attention spans, so keep your pranks short. Try to keep them under 5 minutes if you can. If you go longer than 10 minutes, a lot of people will never hear the end of it. If you're putting the recording of your prank call up for other people to hear, try to edit out the slow parts to shorten the call.
- Be prepared for police involvement. Even when you play by the rules, people are jerks and will claim that you threatened them, even when you didn't. This isn't common, but I've heard it happen many times. Because of this, the "don't prank locally" rule should almost always apply.
We all know about the standard prank call, where you call up a phone number and you start talking to the victim. There is a lot more you can do than that, though. Here are some other types of prank calls that you've probably never thought of.
- Incoming Prank Calls. What's better than making a prank phone call? How about receiving one? There are many ways to trick a victim into calling you so that you can mess with them. The easiest way to accomplish this is to place a free ad on Craigslist so that people call you. If you're inside of a business and you have access to their telephone, you can pick it up when it rings and talk to their customers, just like RBCP did at Wal-Mart all day on Black Friday. If you want to spend money to receive prank calls, you could place an ad in a local newspaper. You could even take a job where you answer phones and screw with the customers that call in until you get fired. Here is a good example of an incoming prank phone call.
- Craigslist Prank Calls. As mentioned above, Craigslist is an invaluable resource for prank callers. Not only can you place an ad on Craigslist and mess with the people who call in, but you can browse the ads and call people who are selling their things or their services. That lady selling her baby stroller is always surprised when you offer her meth instead of cash.
- 3-Way Calling. Connecting people together can often result in confusion. Using the 3-way calling feature on your home phone, your cell or on Skype, you connect 2 people together while you silently listen to them each insist that the other called them. Timing is critical on these calls and it's difficult to get them to both pick up at the same time. One way to avoid this problem is to tell the first victim, "This is AT&T, please hold while I connect your call..." and then you connect the other person. It's fun to connect businesses to each other, such as a couple Chinese restaurants or some taxi dispatchers. Or what can really cause confusion is connecting two of your own friends together. Sometimes they'll both assume that they were the one called and they'll have a normal conversation. Better yet, connect people together that hate each other. Such as a nerd and a jock from school.
- Sound Boards. If you're not good at coming up with anything to say to a victim, then a soundboard prank may be the way to go. Soundboards are nothing more than a huge screen of buttons on your computer that each play a different phrase when pressed. You can find a sound board for just about any movie or television character you can think of, such as this one for Chris from Family Guy or Arnold Schwarzenegger saying phrases from many of his movies. You can use these sound boards to prank people by setting your speaker phone close to your computer's speakers and attempting to make the sound board have a conversation with your victim.
- Automated Prank Services. PrankDial.com will let you make prank calls to any phone number and you can select from hundreds of different prank calls. Some of their pranks will simply Rickroll a person while others will pretend to have conversations with them. PrankDial even lets you spoof your caller I.D. and records the phone calls so you can listen to them later. And best of all, PrankDial works from your cell phone, so you can prank people or businesses right in front of them and they'll never know it's you. This is great for walking into a 7-Eleven or a Deli, being able to watch the clerk's confusion as he/she attempts to deal with a crazed phone caller. It's also a great way to amuse yourself while you're waiting around at the DMV or sitting in a bar.
- Wikipedia article on prank calling. There's a few historical things that are worth reading on the wiki page.
- Cacti Radio. This is a prank call radio station that plays prank calls 24 hours a day and has 4 live shows every week.
- Madhouse Live. Here's a place for thousands of prank calls, prank call forums and a prank call podcast.
- PLA Radio. This is our own podcast that contains lots of prank calls and other humor.
So what are you waiting for? If you really just read this entire guide to prank calling, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a phone right now and do it! That's right, pick it up and start dialing. There you go. Wait! What the hell, man, you're dialing locally? Have you not learned anything here??? God, I hate you. Go back and read all this again right now!
I know that this guide is far from being complete. That's why I'd like you to help me complete it. If you feel that something is missing, please post it in the comments below and I will eventually add it to this page. If you don't want to post it in the comments, then email it to me instead.