Threatening Phone Calls Made Easy - Local News Story - KIFI Idaho Falls
RIGBY, Idaho --
Earlier this week, we learned a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of Rigby High School came from overseas.
Threats like these could be a growing problem, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
A similar threat was made to Bonneville County on Memorial Day, which, along with the Rigby threat, is being linked to threats being made in Florida.
Detective Michael Jensen said the calls are made as part of a network of pranksters, and that placing a threatening phone call is a pretty simple process.
The initial threat on May 4 in Rigby forced hundreds of people to evacuate Rigby High School and bomb sniffing dogs to scour the building. It was all because a prank phone call, which the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says was placed in Ireland.
“It’s very difficult for us to determine in a hurry what calls are not real and what ones are,” Jensen said.
Sheriff’s deputies subpoenaed several phone companies to try and trace the number and came up with nothing. Then, they went to Apple, Inc. They tracked the call not through a phone number, but through an IP address.
"If I wanted to change my number using one of these apps it would take all of about 30 seconds to do," said Apple Master Technician Jaared McDonald.
McDonald showed us just how easy it is to create a new phone number from anywhere in the world, using a voiceover IP, or “VOIP” service. It can be downloaded as a smartphone app, or accessed on websites like Google Voice.
VOIP services provide users with a phone number from anywhere in the world.
"I could say I lived in Dublin, it would assign me a number for Dublin, Ireland," McDonald said.
McDonald said that VOIP software was developed as an inexpensive alternative to phones, linking people and businesses together around the world and virtually eliminating the need for pricey long distance calls. But, he continued, there will always be ways to abuse technology.
"It's a really easy service to manipulate,” McDonald said. “But you will get found."
Jensen said the bogus calls are all for a website called pranku.net, which is dedicated to prank calls.
Now that local law enforcement is aware of the prank callers, Jensen said they’re easier to identify by, for instance, a foreign accent.
No arrests have been made in any recent cases.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is working with the Polk County, Florida Sheriff's Office along with the FBI to find out exactly who made those calls.