Terrifying prank robocall claims tigers escaped Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

SEATTLE -- Residents and businesses around the Woodland Park Zoo should rest easy after learning a scary phone call they received was indeed a prank.

On Sunday, a robocall dialed multiple homes and restaurants near North 50th Street in Seattle, telling people to be on the lookout for a tiger that had escaped the zoo.

The prank seemed very real because the caller used the same phone number as the Woodland Park Zoo, officials said. But it was definitely a prank.

"Woodland Park Zoo was recently notified that a local establishment received a phone call falsely appearing to be from the zoo and claiming that a tiger had escaped," zoo officials said. "Our staff immediately determined that our tigers were secure and the report to be false."

Officials believe the prank was a case of "neighbor spoofing." According to the Better Business Bureau, con artists and robocallers are using technology to modify what numbers appear on a caller ID. It allows pranksters and scammers to impersonate a business, and exploit it to their advantage.

In this case, it was to frighten people into believing a tiger was on the loose in north Seattle, officials said.

The zoo has an extensive contingency plan in the event that an animal escapes, officials said, and it does not involve robocalls.

"Woodland Park Zoo has a comprehensive plan for emergencies," officials said. "Animals are kept under 24-hour care and surveillance and our highly-trained emergency response team is prepared to deploy if needed."

In the more than 100 year history of the zoo, a tiger has never escaped.

Zoo officials reported the robocalls to police. Anyone who believes they have received a similar scam phone call should call Seattle police.