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Is prank calling illegal?

Updated April 17, 2017

While prank calling may not inflict any direct harm or impede a person's freedom, some states consider it a form of harassment, stalking or bullying. Most states have laws against prank calling. Check your state's laws if in doubt.

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You may be charged with cyberstalking if you repeatedly make unwanted phone calls to a another individual. Regardless of whether you speak when the dialled party answers, repeated calls may result in a criminal charge of cyberstalking. Making threats or using obscene language also often fall under cyberstalking laws.


States with cyberharassment laws hold that any phone call intended to cause the recipient emotional distress is an illegal action. The exception to this law is a call that has a legitimate purpose, such as a call to collect a debt.


Cyberbulling is similar to cyberharassment, but it applies to school districts and minors. In short, it is an extension of bullying laws to cover phone use.


Depending on the state and type of crime, prank calling may be considered a misdemeanour or a felony, and a prank caller will be subject to the appropriate punishment, which may be a fine, jail time, or both. Regardless of state laws, however, the FCC's Telecommunications Act of 1996 makes the crime of prank calling punishable with up to two years of imprisonment and/or fines surpassing £650.

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About the Author

Damon Verial

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.

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