SEB Pro Tip: Just because the voice on the phone claims he’s from the corporate office…

Pic of Charlie Brown.

I'm right there with you on that one, Chuck.

…that doesn’t mean you should gather up all the money in your store and hand it over to someone you’ve don’t know at a McDonald’s:

The manager wasn’t available, so the caller told the employee who answered that he was from the corporate office and was calling about a customer who had lost her wallet at the store. He said a wallet was turned in the prior week with $1,200 but the money was missing when the owner came to claim it. He went on to say surveillance footage showed an employee taking the money, and it needed to be replaced to avoid being sued by the rightful owner.

The man instructed her to gather all the money in the store, get in a taxi and meet a man described as the owner’s fiancĂ© at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee. Because of the ongoing internal investigation, she was to tell no one of her activities.

She followed his directions and handed off more than $400 to a man. After returning to the store, the man called to tell her she did a good job and would be receiving a raise. If the store took in any more money that day, she was to deliver that, too, he added.

You see that part I highlighted up there? That should be a big red warning flag that someone is trying to scam you. Why the hell would you be sent to a McDonald’s to hand over something as important as all of the store’s cash to the fiance of someone you’ve never met?

But don’t feel too bad, you weren’t the only idiot person to fall for it:

A second incident, this time at Things Remembered, never got to the point where a money drop was mentioned. But the caller did ask the employee to step into a bathroom, back office or hallway so he wouldn’t be overheard discussing a sensitive matter. He didn’t believe it was a coincidence that jewelry boxes valued at $120 were missing after the conversation.

The good news is that several other people at other stores, not yours, managed to realize it was a scam and hung up on the caller. You really have to be pretty gullible not to realize you were being scammed based on the stories you were being told, but perhaps the fellow sounded really authoritative so I probably shouldn’t judge.

Pranksters convince a couple to trash their hotel room.

In yet another example of the need for well-developed critical thinking skills comes this news story about a family on vacation that fell victim to a prank caller:

Lisa Kantorski took the call from the person who claimed to be a front-desk clerk about a gas leak in their hotel room near Orlando International Airport.

She frantically relayed the information to her husband, Mark, an Indian River County deputy. He followed the caller’s instructions … and smashed the window of his room with a toilet tank.

“When I broke the window, I got suspicious,” Mark said. “It didn’t seem right, but she [Lisa] was panicking, so I continued.”

Caught up in the heat of the moment I can understand this first action and the fact that he had suspicions at this point shows he’s not completely clueless, but rather than ask a couple of questions he kept going. He allowed his concern about his wife’s anxiety to override his common sense.

With Lisa clutching their three kids, Mark listened to the caller as he barked out more instructions:

Break the mirror on the wall. Check.

Use the lamp to bash in the wall to get to the trapped man on the other side. OK.

Throw the mattress out the window and jump for safety. Out the mattress went.

Room 204 of the Hilton Garden Inn on South Semoran Boulevard was a shambles.

“I’m not one to argue much with her,” Mark said. “When you slow down everything, the situation was kind of odd.”

Next time you might want to argue with her if necessary. Blindly following orders from a presumed authority figure during an emergency could get you killed. Your best chance for survival is to use your brain and think about what needs to be done.

Of course if it turns out that there isn’t an emergency and you were never in any danger, well, thinking clearly might save you some embarrassment.

The Kantorskis never got the chance to jump. Hilton Garden Inn manager Samir Patel appeared at the door to address a noise complaint, an Orlando police report states.

Patel broke the news to the Kantorskis: There was no gas leak.

When police officers arrived, Patel said he recently received a memo from his corporate office warning about “dangerous pranks” pulled at hotels in other states. Patel did not return calls Wednesday.

Police don’t know who called the Kantorskis, who were not arrested “because he was responding to what he believed to be an emergency,” said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a police spokeswoman.

These folks were pretty lucky not to be held accountable for their actions. The hotel is looking at a $5,000 repair bill which is pretty cheap compared to some of the other similar pranks that have taken place.

Here’s something from the article I wasn’t previously aware of: It seems these pranks are being carried out by members of a chat room called PrankNET. They have their own Twitter account and a YouTube Channel where they post about their pranks. This is one of many such pranks that have been carried out nationwide:

•In Arkansas, a caller posing as a sprinkler-company employee persuaded a motel employee to do more than $50,000 in damage to a motel as part of a “test” of the motel’s emergency alarms.

•At a Comfort Suites in Daphne, Ala., a caller ordered a guest to turn on the sprinklers for a fire that wasn’t. The result: more than $10,000 in damage.

•In Nebraska, a Hampton Inn employee was convinced by a caller to pull the fire alarm, later telling him the only way to silence the alarm was by breaking the lobby windows. The employee enlisted the help of a nearby trucker, who drove his rig through the front door.

The Nebraska incident appears to be memorialized by PrankNET. According to its Twitter bio, PrankNET is “pranksters in a chat room, doing the most epic pranks you have ever heard in your life.”

I’m of two minds about all of this. On the one hand I can appreciate a good prank and I have little sympathy for the overly gullible. On the other hand these pranks are far from harmless fun. The amount of damage being done and the potential for someone to be seriously injured makes these pranks criminal. Shattering windows isn’t without risk especially when you’re using a vehicle to do it. Not to mention that inciting panic on this scale is just plain cruel.

That said, it serves as a reminder of why we should be teaching critical thinking skills in school starting at an early age.