Text message scam hits Houston Zoo

May 6, 2008 6:02:01 AM PDT
Operators at the Houston Zoo have spent a whole lot more time on the phone than normal lately. That's a result of a head-scratching text message prank. "These are serious kind of threatening phone calls people are getting," said Cathy Kuntz of the Houston Zoo. "It escalated to several thousand a day."

And the crazy calls don't let up.

"It's 24 hours, they call all night long all across the United States," she said.

Since Earth Day, which is April 22, the Houston Zoo has been the bullseye of a text prank that appears to be sent by family member or friends and it's supposed to invoke a little primal fear.

"Someone is looking for you, quit hiding," read one text message.

or

"I know where you are, you can't run," read another.

Another message reads: "Hey Y is someone calln me and lookn for u n askn me where r u at n where u live heres tha #"

And that number in the text messages is the Houston Zoo's main line, which means the switchboard in the main office has been blinking green for days.

Around 350 calls is normal amount, but on Sunday, operators answered 3,500 calls. That large amount of calls jammed the switchboard and Houston Zoo administrators believe it's being sent to all cell phone providers.

"A lot of people will just hang up, or laugh or what not," Kuntz said. "Some people don't get or they are calling for someone else who is frightened by the call."

And behind some of the blinking green lights on the Houston Zoo switchboard are distraught dialers.

"When moms and dads call and it's their 15 or 16 year old child that got this text message, they get a little concerned," said Brian Hill of the Houston Zoo.

The zoo says it's working with cell phone providers, in addition to the FBI to end the prank. If you get the text message, don't call the number, just delete it.

There was a similar type of text message attack against the Dublin Zoo in Ireland last month. No word on who could be behind the messages.

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