24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

Client Testimonials



The BEST LAWYER ANYONE COULD ASK FOR!!! Todd changed our lives! He’s not JUST a lawyer representing us for a case. Todd and his office have become Family. When we entered his office in August of 2022, we entered with such anxiety, uncertainty, and so much stress. Honestly we were very lost. My husband and I felt alone. How could a lawyer who didn’t know us, know our family, know our background represents us, When this could change our lives for the next 5-7years that my husband was facing in Federal jail. By the time our free consultation was over with Todd, we left his office at ease. All our questions were answered and we had a sense of relief.

schedule a consultation


Is prank calling illegal? A defense attorney explains

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Is Prank Calling Illegal? Our Criminal Attorneys Discuss

Prank calling has been around for years and years. Since the dawn of the telephone, callers have been entertaining themselves by disguising their voices and engaging in jokes with whoever picks up the phone. Sometimes though, prank calls can cross ethical and legal lines – resulting in criminal offenses such as harassment, threats, or fraud. When does a prank call become illegal? As a criminal defense attorney, I’m often asked to examine the legality of prank calls. Here’s an overview of laws and examples of potentially criminal prank calls:

When Does a Prank Call Become Illegal?

Most calls that are jokes, to friends, or businesses are legal, but slightly immature to say the least! But, prank calls can break laws depending on the situation at hand:

  • Harassment – Repeatedly engaging in unwanted calls to annoy, abuse, or threaten someone can be perceived as harassment.
  • Trespassing – Prank delivering food/services to someone else’s house without consent is a form of tresspassing..
  • Swatting pranks – Falsely reporting crimes which result in the FBI/Police raiding someone’s house is a form of swatting. This is not a legal prank.
  • Obscenity – If you make lewd, or vulgar calls, without consent, this is illegal – and no longer
  • Impersonation – If you do this to get money, or information, fraudulently, then this is a crime.
  • Threats – If you intimidate, or threaten injury, during the call – then the prank call is illegal.
  • Disrupting phone service – Blocking lines or making repeated calls in order to disrupt someones phone service – this is illegal.
  • Privacy violations – Each state is different when it comes to recording calls, you have to make sure you’re not illegally recording a call.

The key to figuring out whether the prank call is illegal, is whether the call resulted in someone being in fear, in panic, incited violence, caused actual damages, or was made for fraudulent purposes. There’s a big difference between harmless and illegal conduct. But if you act maliciously, threaten someone, or make dangerous calls – then it can result in felony charges.

Harassment Charges For Unwanted Calls

In many state laws, if you repeatedly call someone in a harassing manner – then it’s a misdemeanor or felony crime. What constitutes harassment? Here are some factors prosecutors consider:

  • Number of calls – Repeated unwanted calls to the same individual, can show intent to harass.
  • Time of day – Late night or early morning calls can be indicative of harassment.
  • Call content – Abusive, vulgar, threatening, or obscene language will be looked to see if it was harmless joke, or actual harassment.
  • Caller ID spoofing – Masking your number could be used to determine what your intent was.
  • Purpose – Calling solely to annoy or frighten the intended target is going to be considered when harassment is in question.
  • Impact on victim – Prosecutors will look to see what happened to the victim based on your conduct.

While an isolated immature prank call may not get noticed, a pattern of unwanted prank calls, especially threatening calls, can warrant criminal charges with penalties of up to 2 years in some states.

Swatting Is Dangerous – And Illegal

One of the most dangerous illegal pranks is “swatting” – making fake calls to emergency services reporting violent crimes in progress to elicit an armed law enforcement response at a targeted home. This reckless hoax endangers everyone by wasting critical resources and creating police encounters that can turn fatal in seconds.

Many kid think it’s funny to call the police and lie about potential hostage situations, bomb threats, kidnappings, and more, but it’s a federal crime under 18 USC § 1038. Adults over 18 can get five or more years in prison for calling in a swatting attack on someone else. If death results from police actions, felony murder charges could happen.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Impersonation and Fraudulent Schemes

While impersonating others as a prank may seem harmless, pretending to be someone you’re not for money or valuables crosses into fraud. Scams like calling elderly folks impersonating the IRS to obtain sensitive data can mean serious identity theft and fraud charges.

Schemes using prepaid phones and spoofing technology to fake caller IDs should be avoided. Under federal wire fraud laws, phone impersonation tricks to steal money, accounts, or information can lead to decades behind bars, plus massive civil liability. Don’t let pranks destroy trust and harm innocent victims.

When Are Threatening, Prank Calls Criminal?

First Amendment free speech rights don’t cover threats of violence made as pranks to instill fear. Under most state laws, threats to:

  • Cause bodily injury or death
  • Damage property
  • Subject someone to physical confinement or restraint

They can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies with fines and multi-year prison terms if credible threats are made, even as a hoax. Don’t falsely claim to be stalking someone or threaten violent attacks or bomb plots, even if meant as a joke. Terroristic threatening laws are applied broadly by prosecutors.

Can Parents Be Liable for their Kids’ Prank Calls?

Parents of a kid engaging in prank calls can face civil liability and fines if their children repeatedly make illegal prank calls. Under parental responsibility laws, parents must exert supervision and control over their kids. Penalties can result from actions such as:

  • Failing to monitor phone or computer use
  • Allowing access to caller ID spoofing services
  • Not contacting authorities about the child’s prior prank call history

While one or two childish pranks may not warrant charges, a pattern of harassing, threatening, vulgar or fraudulent calls should lead parents to intervene and impose discipline to avoid facing charges themselves.

Pranks Calls at School

Students have to be careful with prank calls to teachers, administrators or classmates. These types of prank calls have additional consequences apply in school settings. Prank calling a teacher or classmate can violate school codes of conduct prohibiting:

  • Harassment, discrimination, bullying
  • Disrupting school activities
  • Violations of technology use policies
  • Detrimental behavior

Beyond criminal penalties, students who engage in prank calls can also face suspension, expulsion, and permanent disciplinary records.

How to Avoid Legal Problems

While most realize that swatting attacks or impersonation frauds is illegal, even someone making more minor prank calls can find themselves charged and arrested if they keep doing it – despite warnings. Here are some tips for staying on the right side of the law:

  • Avoid any threatening or obscene language.
  • Never call anonymously or block your number.
  • If told to stop calling someone, respect that immediately.
  • Never pretend to be someone else or make false reports.
  • Don’t violate privacy – avoid recording people without consent.
  • Call friends and family you know want your humor, not unconsenting strangers or businesses.
  • Parents should educate teens on the consequences and monitor phone use.

With basic respect for others and common sense, phone pranking can stay light-hearted and fun for all involved. But crossing lines into harassment, threats, panic, or fraud should be avoided to sidestep criminal liability. The criminal justice system takes a severe view of any prank activity touching on violence, vulnerabilities, or predation. A defense attorney like myself can advise where legal boundaries lie. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution by keeping jokes harmless and consensual.

Key Points on Prank Calling Legality

Lawyers You Can Trust

Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

view profile



view profile


Associate Attorney

view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile

Criminal Defense Lawyers Trusted By the Media

schedule a consultation
Schedule Your Consultation Now