What is a Prank Call?

Prank calls may be considered harassment.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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A prank call is a phone call which is made for the intention of perpetrating a practical joke. Some prank calls are innocent, silly, and enjoyable for both parties. Others are not, and could be considered harassment. Depending on the nature of a prank call, the caller runs the risk of being prosecuted for his or her actions, and people who are considering a prank call may want to think about how it will be received before dialing the number.

As a general rule, people perform prank calls for their own personal pleasure, and in some cases people may record their prank calls and circulate the recordings among friends or readers of a website. Some radio stations and television shows have achieved quite a following with their publicized prank calls, some of which have involved elaborate hoaxes. Queen Elizabeth II, for example, was once the victim of a prank call.

The prankster generally has a good idea of how the call will go before dialing the number. He or she may tell a joke which involves a response from the victim, such as: “If your refrigerator running?” If the answer is “yes,” the caller says “well, you'd better go catch it!” The prankster may also set up a hypothetical situation, or pretend to be another person or organization. Some people use techniques to conceal or obscure their voices on a prank call, especially when the victim knows the person performing the prank.


Prank calls can also be reversed, with the caller being the victim instead of the person being called. For example, someone could answer his or her phone and pretend to be someone else, or a business, or a prankster might publish a phone number to incite people to call, and then prank them when they phone in.

A prank call can cross the line which it involves law enforcement or the victim become seriously distressed. Prank calls like bomb threats and calls to emergency services tend to be severely punished, as these waste resources and take emergency services personnel away from people who might need them. If the victim feels threatened by a prank call or he or she becomes concerned by the scenario put forward in the call, the victim may call the police to report the incident, resulting in general confusion and often anger once the situation has been sorted out.

As a general rule, prank calls among friends are acceptable and sometimes greatly enjoyed, with some groups of friends upping the ante on a regular basis for entertainment value. Prank calls to random people or people you don't know can be harmless and fun, but caution should be taken when making such calls to ensure that the prankee enjoys the call as much as the pranker. Prank calls to law enforcement agencies, emergency services, and government agencies are never a good idea, unless you enjoy paying fines and doing time in jail.


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