By Meri Hellewell
Drive-through speakers have never been known for their clarity, but at least they weren”t rude – until now.
Police believe teenage hackers are tapping into the frequency of a Michigan Burger King”s drive-through speakers, telling potential customers they are too fat for fast food.
One customer was reportedly told after placing an order, “You don”t need a couple of Whoppers. You are too fat. Pull ahead.”
Another customer who ordered a Coca-Cola was told, “We don”t have a Coke.” After asking what drinks were available, the reply was, “We don”t have anything. Pull ahead.”
The comments, directed at customers as they are placing orders, indicate the hackers are using a radio transmitter or walkie-talkie within close range of the restaurant.
Lewd comments were also directed at the restaurant manager when he went outside to apologize and ensure customers the inappropriate comments were coming from somewhere beyond the restaurant.
Hacking into what Provo Burger King Manager Dave Holdaway calls, “the same sort of system that a walkie-talkie would use,” isn”t that difficult. Troy, Mich., Police Lt. Gerry Scherlink discussed the possibility of interference with drive-through speakers with several Hamm radio operators, saying, “it”s really not that complicated.”
Although it may not be difficult, it”s definitely illegal. Interfering with a wireless frequency can yield an $11,000 fine, according to the Federal Communications Commission. In Michigan, where the incident occurred, illegal use of a telecommunications device is a misdemeanor.
Holdaway, said this hasn”t been a problem locally. However, that doesn”t mean that it won”t be. Scherlink said one of his biggest concerns is that this prank will be replicated elsewhere.
Tapping into the speaker system frequency isn”t the only type of drive-through prank. Niel Westover, a 23-year-old computer science major at BYU, worked at McDonald”s in his hometown of Springfield, Ore. for over a year. One common prank he encountered was groups of kids standing on the drive-through censor, trying to weigh as much as a car in an effort to place their order on foot.
“I just thought it was funny,” Westover said, though he said he would be frustrated if he encountered the type of prank that occurred in Michigan.