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Prank calls claiming tigers escaped zoo frightens residents and businesses

Posted at 11:51 AM, Sep 19, 2018

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Residents and businesses around a Seattle zoo can rest easy after learning a scary phone call they received was a prank, according to KCPQ.

On Sunday, a robocall dialed multiple homes and restaurants near the Woodland Park Zoo, telling people to be on the lookout for a tiger that had escaped the zoo.

The prank seemed very real because the caller used the same phone number as the Woodland Park Zoo, officials said. But it was definitely a prank.

"Woodland Park Zoo was recently notified that a local establishment received a phone call falsely appearing to be from the zoo and claiming that a tiger had escaped," zoo officials said. "Our staff immediately determined that our tigers were secure and the report to be false."

Officials believe the prank was a case of "neighbor spoofing." According to the Better Business Bureau, con artists and robocallers are using technology to modify what numbers appear on a caller ID. It allows pranksters and scammers to impersonate a business, and exploit it to their advantage.

In this case, it was to frighten people into believing a tiger was on the loose in north Seattle, officials said.

Zoo officials say the zoo has an extensive contingency plan in the event that an animal escapes, and it does not involve robocalls.

"Woodland Park Zoo has a comprehensive plan for emergencies," officials said. "Animals are kept under 24-hour care and surveillance and our highly-trained emergency response team is prepared to deploy if needed."

Zoo officials reported the robocalls to police. In the more than 100 year history of the zoo, a tiger has never escaped.