Latest Internet Crime Calling Victims With Own Numbers

It's a story about terror through the Internet that the NBC 10 Investigators first exposed. At least four local women have been victimized, but police fear the list is growing.

The crimes are disturbing. But what may be even more disturbing than the crimes may be the identities of those hiding behind the Internet and how easy it is for them to creep into your life, NBC 10 investigative reporter Harry Hairston said.

"I was just fooling around on the Internet, trying to find ways to do more prank calls, because I make a lot of them," said Joy Freeland, of Lancaster County.

With her baby in hand, the stay-at-home mother admits to making dozens of prank calls to a Lancaster County hotel.

The pranks forced the manager to call police.

"They just started out as more like a prank, and over time they became obscene and downright threatening," said a police officer who investigated the case.

"So, you can ultimately hide your identity," said Freeland, who even disguised her voice on the calls.

The NBC 10 Investigators found out how easy it is when they signed up for the same Internet service Freeland used.

"You have no idea who I am, and that's exactly how I want it," Hairston said on a recorded message he made using the service.

All it took was five minutes and a $25 charge to a credit card to get the power to scare the living daylights out of anybody.

"You can make your voice low, or you can make your voice high," Hairston said on the message he created.

This is exactly what happened to Becky Alderfer. A Collegeville couple admitted to making the overnight phone calls terrifying her and four other women.

"They were all upset thinking that somebody was in their house," Limerick Township police Sgt. Paul Marchese said at the time.

Here's how they did it: The woman supplied the numbers, the man made the calls and the service allowed them to put the victim's own home phone number in their cell phones' caller ID.

"I was up in my room, sleeping in my bed," Alderfer said. "When I answered it, there was a muffled voice on the other end that told me he liked watching me, he liked watching me sleep."

Marchese said the Web site cooperated, helping police make the arrests. Now, he's assisting other police departments.

"It's definitely growing. I've had other departments calling me, asking for help in investigating it," Marchese said.

"If you look on Google, you'll find at least half-dozen to a dozen services that say, 'Spoof your caller ID.' And you'll find a few other 'how to do it caller ID Web sites,'" said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Gil.

County prosecutors convicted the Collegeville couple but said they fear more people may take a legal Internet service and use it as an instrument of crime.

"They both conspired to use this service in a way to harass people, and that's when it became criminal," Gil said.

But why would anyone want to hide their identity and make threatening, frightening calls?

"In a way, engaging in this behavior can become a little addictive," said psychologist Nicole Lipki, who called it like finding "newfound power."

"The power trip that happens from it, that power, that role of being a different person could create a cycle of doing it more and more and more and then stepping over the line," Lipkin said.

That's something Freeland now regrets, and she said she hopes to someday make good with the hotel manager she prank called.

"I would just tell her that I'm sorry. It went too far," Freeland said.

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