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Obscene messages being left on cell phones

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Mike Heine
November 1, 2007
— A potty-mouthed prank is hitting southern Wisconsin cell phone users, according to police.

The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department and several area police departments are investigating a string of vulgar, probably computer-generated messages being left on the voicemails of cellular customers.


“We’re aware it’s happening. We’re working on fixing it,” according to a spokesperson for U.S. Cellular, one of several companies whose customers have been affected. “We’re working with law enforcement officials.”


The Janesville Gazette has learned of messages that range from one person screaming obscenities and hanging up to others where a man threatens harm to the call recipient unless they stop “calling his girlfriend,” according to sources who have received the calls.


Several of the calls have come to employees of The Week, a Walworth County newspaper owned by Bliss Communications, parent company to the Gazette.


“He was pretty much saying how (he) saw the number come up on his girlfriend’s phone, and I’d better stop calling,” said Emma Wichman.


She said a woman then started laughing, and “she’d start using some nasty words.”


Wichman, who works at The Week, received two identical calls within three minutes. Both calls went straight to her voicemail so no number appeared on the caller ID.


The message, however, started with a computerized voice that gave a number in the 608 area code to call back, she said.


Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said the perpetrators might want people to call the 608 number to try and obtain personal information, but a U.S. Cellular spokesperson said calling the number should not compromise the recipient’s phone number or personal information.


Maria Lopez, of Delavan, also got one of the calls. Several of her friends also have received them.


It was similar to Wichman’s in that it started with a number to call back.


“It sounded like two girls,” Lopez said. “I don’t know who it was or what it was. They counted up to three and yelled (swear words).”


Delavan Police Chief Tim O’Neill said his department started receiving complaints about four weeks ago. Wichman and Lopez got their calls in early to mid October.


“It’s totally off-the-wall stuff,” O’Neill said. “One little old lady who never uses her phone got one that said, ‘I’m coming after you because you’re going after my girlfriend.’”


Picknell hadn’t tabulated the number of complaints to the sheriff’s department but said most reports came in about three weeks ago. They appeared to target random people.


Picknell and O’Neill said people should ignore the messages and not call the number given. They also suggested reporting it to police and to the cellular provider.



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