Don’t Pick Up The Phone: The disturbing true story behind the Netflix series

A still from Don't Pick Up The Phone on NetflixNetflix

Don’t Pick Up The Phone is a harrowing new documentary series on Netflix, chronicling an infamous string of hoax calls in the US – here’s what you need to know about the true story.

Netflix has a reputation as a purveyor of all sorts of true crime documentaries, whether it’s Tiger King, Killer Sally, Don’t F*ck With Cats, The Tinder Swindler, The Most Hated Man On The Internet, The Staircase, and much more.

Don’t Pick Up The Phone is the latest docuseries to hit the streaming platform, investigating and exploring the strip search hoax call scam that unfolded over the course of 12 years in the US.

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With the series now available to watch on Netflix, here’s what you need to know about the case. Warning: some may find this content distressing.

The true story of Don’t Pick Up The Phone

Don’t Pick Up The Phone is a docuseries following the true story of the “investigation into a hoax caller who talked managers into strip-searching employees at fast food businesses across the US.”

The scam was straightforward: a man would call a fast food restaurant, or occasionally a grocery store, pretending to be a police officer. He would convince the manager and others to strip-search female employees and, in some cases, sexually assault them.

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You can watch the trailer for the documentary below:

For example, in November 2000, a caller convinced a manager of a Kentucky McDonald’s to undress herself in front of a customer who was believed to be a suspected of sexual offenses. The caller said this would aid nearby undercover officers with catching him if he tried to assault her.

In May 2002, an 18-year-old woman began her first day at an Iowa McDonald’s, where she was forced to “strip, jog naked and assume a series of embarrassing poses, all at the direction of a caller on the phone,” as per the Courier Journal.

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More than 70 reports of insidious hoax calls were reported in the US between 1992 and 2004, eventually culminating with an incident in 2004 in Mount Washington, Kentucky, which led to the arrest of David Richard Stewart – however, the charges were dropped.

The incident saw Donna Summers, the manager of a McDonald’s in Kentucky, force 18-year-old Louise Ogborn to remove her clothes in a backroom, as she had been accused of theft by the man on the phone. She later enlisted the help of her fiancé, Walter Nix Jr, who made Ogborn dance and perform jumping jacks while naked.

The young woman was then forced to expose herself further and perform oral sex on Nix, who later phoned a friend and told them: “I have done something terribly bad.”

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While this was one of several similar incidents, none had gone as far as they had with Ogborn. “I was bawling my eyes out and literally begging them to take me to the police station because I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said in her deposition.

“I couldn’t steal – I’m too honest. I stole a pencil one time from a teacher, and I gave it back.”

While Stewart was arrested and faced charges of impersonating a police officer, soliciting sodomy and soliciting sexual abuse, he was acquitted of all charges in 2006, with the defence and prosecution believing the lack of direct evidence may have led to a not-guilty verdict.

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Don’t Pick Up The Phone is available to stream on US Netflix now. It’s unclear when it’ll be released in the UK.