I will never understand why some people think it is funny or clever to hoax call the emergency services. Hoax calls cost lives. Whilst ambulance crews drive round in circles trying to find patients that don’t exist and accidents that never happened, and control staff waste hours on the phone trying to determine the location of fictitious incidents, other, genuine patients are put in danger.

The vast majority of hoaxes come from children, most of whom, I hope, get a stern talking to from their parents when the ambulance turns up (children tend not to realise that we can trace any landline call, and the owner of any registered mobile!) and never do it again. There are also a fair few from older teenagers, who, I’m guessing, are doing it for a dare. This type of hoax is pretty easy to spot; the diagnosis is usually blurted out in a rehearsed manner and involves “someone” and a medical diagnosis rather than the more usual description of what has happened. (“Someone’s broken their leg!” as opposed to “My brother fell down the stairs and his leg hurts!”) The caller usually hangs up on further questioning, usually without giving an address. If they do give an address, it’s usually a main road. I can’t ever remember taking a hoax call and not realising it was a hoax at the time, which makes it all the more frustrating because unless we’ve already been to the address that day, we have to treat every single call as if it were genuine.

Somewhat more sinister are the regular hoaxers. We’ve had a few of thesever the years. Some have been prosecuted but some we never find. If a caller uses an unregistered mobile or a payphone to call, it’s pretty much impossible to trace them. There was one young woman who called us every night for months, giving an address near her own every time. When she was eventually traced it was found she was mentally ill and had an obsession with ambulances. Her bedroom wall was covered with pictures of them and she was calling 999 just so she could see one outside. There was also a spate of hoaxes to one address which were believed to be coming from the ex partner of the person who lived there. They always gave outlandish reasons such as “house on fire” “plane crash” and on one occasion, “my wife has cut my testicles off and cooked them in the over”.

This week, we’ve been utterly inundated with calls from possibly the most annoying hoaxer ever. He’s been calling us for a couple of months now, but this week the call rate has gone through the roof. I’d say he is calling a couple of hundred times a day. Each call taker will end up speaking to him around ten times per shift. Of course, we’ve had his mobile cut off, but he just goes out and buys a new one, and he’s back again. He gives his address as 20, [long and well known road], E1. The address he gives doesn’t, strictly speaking, exist – the road covers more than one postal area, and number 20 isn’t in E1. In actual fact, as we discovered the first time we were called out there, number 20 is a Woolworths.

This guy thinks he is *hilarious*. He loves to give his diagnosis as “itchy penis” and I think this is just because he is amused by the word “penis”. Sometimes he will just call up and laugh and say that he needs an ambulance because he or his girlfriend (surely a moron like this cannot possibly have a girlfriend?) cannot stop laughing. Sometimes he will just sing his “address” at us and laugh hysterically. He knows that we cannot hang up on someone if they say they need an ambulance so he will always maintain that he needs an ambulance, despite rarely giving a coherent reason for doing so. Lately, he has given up on giving any medical reasons for needing us whatsoever – instead he will alternately offer the call taker a banana, or request that a banana is brought to him. According to one rather exasperated emergency operator I spoke to, when asked “Emergency, which service? Police, fire or ambulance?” he replied “Greengrocer”.

If I didn’t think it would lose me my job, I would quite happily post Mr Banana’s phone number up on my blog and encourage every single reader to call him, preferably at 3 in the morning, and offer him random items of fruit and veg and see how HE likes it.

Published Jun 27, 2008 - 28 Comments and counting

28 Comments on “Regular Hoaxers”
  1. Stephen Says:

    If you post his address the next call would probably be him requesting aid to remove bananas from unnatural locations :)

  2. watcher Says:

    Dont post his number, but play a game with your readers, something like this:
    Whats my age: 07
    Whats my birthyear: 79
    Whats my weight :60 (assume its KG!)

    until you have a nice eleven digits for people to, um, string together.

  3. Kieran Says:

    Surely it can’t be that hard for the police to track this moron down. Failing that, you need to cut off each mobile as quickly as possible so that the cost of the gag becomes unaffordable and he is forced to revert to a more easily trackable method.

  4. EBS Says:

    Sign him up for some dodgy online services – who’d know? :) I wonder if there’s some way to get his bank details out of him…

  5. Rachel T Says:

    I’d sign him up for a load of call backs from companies wanting to change his energy providers, phone providers, etc.

  6. FLossy Says:

    We had a case a bit like this in S. Wales (Port Talbot I think), it was in the news that a judge had decided that emergency services no longer needed to respond to her. Unfortunately, I think it took a few years to get to that stage :(

  7. Kryptobabe Says:

    Only problem with it is, I’d say every emergency service person would STILL send an ambulance, because the one time that you don’t… is the time that they’ll need it, and that’d open a whole can of worms that no one wants to think about! :(

  8. Mark Myers Says:

    It’s pretty much impossible to track him down unless he uses a registered phone or is actually standing outside the address looking for the ambulance. At least the fact that he gives an address that we know doesn’t exist means we don’t have to send an ambulance and it’s only the call takers time that is wasted – other hoaxers have had far more ambulances wasted on them.

    It did occur to me that changing the address for this post is a bit pointless considering it’s not his real address and I don’t think hoaxers are protected by patient confidentiality laws anyway…

  9. Jen Z Says:

    Once you find him, I hope you charge him for each time those ambulances are sent out.
    Let him explain that to his insurance. :D

  10. Jo Says:

    The really good trick that I was taught (for a nuisance call…) was to sign their phone number up to a fax back service. (or preferably lots of them) If you find enough dodgy ones, then they will sell his number on. With fax machines, there is nothing the person can do, as they will call back three or four times before giving up.

  11. policecontrolop Says:

    I think the caller you are referring to gets thru to the police sometimes as well as some details ring a bell with me. The police have regular misusers as well and with unregistered mobiles its very hard to do anything, getting them disconnected takes time (bureacracy) and then they just get another one. Perhaps it should be a legal requirement to register a mobile phone using some form of ID, or would that be too Big Brotherish?

    As for pinpointing where the user is, this is technically possible but it takes time, costs money and can only be authorised when there is a risk to life and limb (ie a suicidal missing person) so its never going to happen for these misusers.

    I have also occasionally entertained the idea of turning the tables on these people by putting there numbers on a public toilet wall with a suitably obscene invitation. I would never do it though, at the end of the day its not worth risking the sack for. What would be great would be to send an electric shock down the line to these bozos, thatd learn em!

  12. Flora Gardens Says:

    I know the young female you mentioned – if it’s the girl in a certain western area of London She is a monumental pain in the arse. I would frankly put her in a MH home, and bang up her parents in jail. Her parents know what she does, and they ignore it totally. My other half works on the sector in EOC where she offends, and – if it wasn’t for him and his colleagues who recognise the signs of her calls – there would be an ambulances attending houses near hers every 10 minutes.

  13. tom p Says:

    Police controlop – how would anyone know that it was you who’d written on the toilet wall? Surely you go into toilet cubicles on your own?!

    Mark – why not nip down to one of the notorious cottaging toilets and pop his number down. At least he’d get a few unwanted callers then.

  14. Dan Says:

    On Sunday, a fire engine responding to a hoax call collided with a car in Sheffield, killing a mother and leaving her 10 year old daughter critically ill.

    A 17-year old has been arrested and is due to appear in court charged with making this and other hoax calls.


  15. Kryptobabe Says:

    Cannot be named for legal reasons?! Fuck me. He got someone killed, and someone else critically injured, he has NO legal reasons to be hidden – other than the fact that most of the world would like to kill him. If it’s to do with the fact that he’s 17, that’s ridiculous. Unless there’s a mental disability, there comes an age where a child/young adult KNOWS that ringing an ambulance/police/fire/whatever service is wrong because it will take them away from someone who DOES need them.

  16. flit Says:

    I just love the ones who move from tk to tk and you can literally map their path around the city. At least they don’t waste your time as much and you can take bets on where you think they’ll call from next. Though some days I wish there was a way you could just trap them in the kiosk. Press a button and the tk turns into a mini cell until the cops turn up.
    If only we had the power…

  17. Dragonfly Says:

    Oh dear…….

  18. Chapati Says:

    do it! time waster…

  19. Mosh Says:

    Pop to my blog, drop me a message with his number on and *I’ll* advertise it. And call it. I’ll be in Asia within 24 hours. I’d like to see him trace that back…

  20. Kathryn Says:

    well, if someone accidental emailed some *random* digits to me and i thought it was a funny spam email adn passed it on to everyone i know then he’s certainly get some unwanted calls.

    in fact – s*d that – lets just make a face-book group out of him!!! :)

  21. Petrolhead Says:

    I hate getting callsfromour regulars. Some of them have caution notes which automatically get sent to the crew, so they run routine, but some haven’t reached that stage yet. We have one particular caller who calls pretty much constantly (but only every few weeks) and we agree to send one ambulance each time, but if it’s discovered that it’s not a genuine call then we will transfer the caller to the DDM who will have stern words. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work as they called again last night!

  22. Petrolhead Says:

    I hate getting callsfromour regulars. Some of them have caution notes which automatically get sent to the crew, so they run routine, but some haven’t reached that stage yet. We have one particular caller who calls pretty much constantly (but only every few weeks) and we agree to send one ambulance each time, but if it’s discovered that it’s not a genuine call then we will transfer the caller to the DDM who will have stern words. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work as they called again last night!

  23. John Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me quite how much of the human population I despise; I struggle to think how on earth we can actually get the message through to such people.

  24. Rachel Says:

    Happy to call from Australia… offering kangeroos, perhaps?

  25. gargravarr Says:

    i’m with policecontrolop and tom p. a nice practical lesson for them, and completely annonymous for you. everyone wins!

  26. Regular Hoaxers Says:

    [...] Source: Regular Hoaxers [...]

  27. moo Says:

    Not just the emergency services… Samaritans have a few fantasists with hundreds of PAYG mobile SIMs between them. There’s no easy answer!

  28. jayloo Says:

    Regarding the 17 year old and the crash between a car and the fire truck….isn’t it the fault of one or other of the drivers involved in the accident? I mean, if the fire truck had been responding to a real call and the accident had occurred it still would have been horrible, but to blame the kid for an accident when he wasn’t in either of the vehicles or throwing anything in their paths that caused them to run into each other…I don’t get it.

    Not that I am in any way defending him for making the hoax calls, btw.

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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