When Scott Richter tried to reach Dustin Parker on his company cell phone one Saturday in early November 2003, the sultry voice of a sex-chat-service operator answered instead. Assuming he had misdialed the number, Richter hung up and again tried phoning Parker, the head of information technology at OptInRealBig. But the call went through to the sex line the second time as well.
This was not a good thing. Richter and other company personnel routinely gave out Parker's number to major customers who needed after-hours technical support or other customer service. Richter's first impulse was to blame anti-spammers. The previous spring, someone had apparently hacked into OptinRealBig's telephone network switch. The hackers enabled a feature that caused the twenty-four phones in the building to begin ringing all at once. Employees had to unplug their telephones for several hours while the company tried to solve the problem.
But anti-spammers weren't responsible for the latest telephone prank. When Richter finally reached Parker on his private line, the 18-year-old admitted he had set up his company cell phone to forward to the sex line. Parker said he did it as a joke. But Richter soon realized that Parker had a different goal in mind. He wanted customers to think OptInRealBig was going out of business.
After picking up his last paycheck on November 7, Parker had joined a mutiny by six key OptInRealBig employees. Parker, the kid who had been Richter's right hand from ...