Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hotels and guests are falling victim to pranks that are not funny

Hotels are ripe grounds for pranks and scams and we need to keep our guard up at all times. As hotel employees, we are trained to serve and follow requests. As guests, we let our guards down because we are on vacation and trust authority. Well, that can be a big mistake. I have written in my blog before that when hotel staff contacts you during your stay, and you are not expecting them to do so, make them wait for you to verify their validity before you do anything. Tell them to wait and call the front desk. Here is a bulletin that is going around about hotel pranks. I have to admit that they are so outrageous it is amusing, but probably not to the victims. I like to pass this stuff along, so maybe I can help someone somewhere avoid having a bad day. It also reminds me that when I think I have heard everything, something like this comes along.

Hotel Bulletin

Telephone pranksters posing as security or sprinkler company employees have been causing serious damage to many hotels across the country with several reports from Los Angeles properties, as well as New York and across the southeast.

The prank goes like this:

A caller very convincingly has an employee set off the hotel's fire alarm, shut down electricity, and even smash windows, with the most serious damage reported as fire sprinklers that have flooded several hotel lobbies. To-date, it seems this prank is targeting limited service properties during the night and audit shift.

Press reports from various incidents:
From the Smoking Gun-
Now...Go Break The Windows
Crank caller wreaks havoc on Arkansas hotel,
duping employees, guests

JUNE 9--A telephone prankster posing as a sprinkler company employee caused havoc Saturday morning at an Arkansas Holiday Inn when he convinced an employee to set off the hotel's fire alarm, smash windows, shut down electricity, and break a sprinkler head that flooded the building lobby. The bizarre incident is documented by the Conway Police Department, which, as seen below, photographed the aftermath of the June 6 incident. According to police, Holiday Inn employee Christina Bergmann was at the front desk early Saturday when a male caller "identified himself as an employee of Grennel Fire Sprinkler service." The man told Bergmann that there was a problem with the hotel's fire sprinklers and that she "needed to pull the fire alarm to reset them," cops reported. "Bergmann proceeded to pull the fire alarm at this point, causing the audible alarm." Bergmann, aided by a hotel guest, would subsequently follow a series of directions from the caller that would result in about $50,000 in damages to the hotel's windows, carpets and electrical system. Hotel guests, who were evacuated during the incident, were allowed back into the Holiday Inn after police and fire officials determined that the caller was an imposter. Since a similar prank call was made to a Holiday Inn in Little Rock, Conway cops alerted fellow Arkansas law enforcement officials that "more of these calls could be coming in," according to the police report. Rusty Brown, the Holiday Inn guest who helped Bergmann follow the prankster's instructions, told TSG he was "an innocent bystander and got involved in domestic terrorism." Bown, 36,remarked that there was "absolute panic in that hotel," adding that, "all I did was make it worse. I'm not proud of breaking windows. It is very disheartening."
Here is a story where the guest was duped...

Pranksters convince hotel guest to heave TV, fridge out window Last Updated: Monday, March 23, 2009 6:09 PM CT Comments85Recommend110
CBC News

The defenestrated mini-fridge sits outside the Edgewater Hotel in Whitehorse following the phone prank Sunday night. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

A sleepy guest at a Whitehorse hotel fell victim to a late-night hoax Sunday when
pranksters pretending to be hotel staff instructed him to hurl two appliances
out of his second-storey window as an emergency measure. Staff at the Edgewater Hotel in downtown Whitehorse said the Victoria man was sleeping in his room when callers woke him up shortly after 11 p.m. to say there was a gas leak in the building. The callers, who said they were from the front desk, told the guest he had to increase air flow into the building by throwing the room's television and mini-refrigerator through his window. The man was also instructed to pull the fire alarm, waking the Edgewater's other guests. "The poor guy in the room is, of course, feeling pretty bashful and somewhat stupid, but he's not going to be held liable or anything," David Goold, the hotel's night attendant, told CBC News early Monday morning. "He can't really be blamed for what you're doing, half-awake, under the front desk's supposed instructions, which is who the people on the phone said they were. "Goold said he later received two separate tips from callers in Ontario, who said the people responsible for the hoax were bragging about their conquest in an online chat room. Goold passed on the tips to Whitehorse RCMP, who say the incident is under investigation.

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