The U.S. Coast Guard is asking for the public’s assistance identifying a serial hoax emergency caller the agency said is likely based in Baltimore.

“Hoax calls such as these are no joking matter and have a direct impact on our search and rescue readiness,” said Cmdr. Roberto Concepcion, chief of response for the Coast Guard’s Maryland-National Capital Region. “Our crews and watchstanders may be distracted by these hoax calls, diverting their attention from potential, real emergencies elsewhere, putting people’s lives at risk.”

Since Feb. 17, according to a news release, the Coast Guard has received at least 16 hoax calls from an unknown source transmitted over VHF channel 16, a marine radio frequency used for international distress calls.

The Coast Guard released audio one of the calls.

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“Help. Is anybody out there? Help,” said the caller in the recording.

The law enforcement agency is asking anyone who may recognize the caller’s voice to call (410) 576-2555. The Coast Guard is offering an $1,000 reward for any information leading to the identification, arrest or prosecution of the caller.

Making fake distress calls is a federal crime that can lead to over $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Hoax calls are a common problem for the Coast Guard and have occurred in Maryland before.

In 2019, a series of hoax calls from near Ocean City vexed the Coast Guard. The agency released audio of the caller claiming they were “going down with the ship” and “mayday, mayday, mayday,” and giving multiple coordinates amid various profanities and giggling heard in the background.

Even this past October, the USCG made a similar public plea for help identifying a series of hoax calls “in a male child’s voice.” Those calls originated near Burlington, Vermont, along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.

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