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Cyber Pranking 911 Swat Calls is a Crime

Updated on May 24, 2016
Stacie L profile image

Stacie L has been an educator for many years and likes to share her experiences and advice.

Swat team in action
Swat team in action | Source

Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident.

Cyber prank crimes

If you've ever had someone prank you, there's usually no harm involved and everyone has a laugh over it. Imagine a stranger accusing you a crime over the computer and reporting it to the FBI or CIA. They usually call the local SWAT team of the police in that area. This is called cyber swatting. When we hear the term “SWAT” on the news, it usually involves a group of commando-type people dressed in military garb, loaded with high powered rifles.

Actually it refers to a special team of trained police units to deal with very dangerous situations that the ordinary police dept aren't equipped to handle.SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics and is fashioned after military training tactics. They handle the most dangerous situations such as negotiating with hostage takers, dealing with terroristic situations, or serving high risk arrest warrants.


Incidents on the rise

Some of the headlines appearing in my research involving the 9-1-1 hacks are:

  • LAPD will keep celebrity swatting cases secret
  • Ashton Kutcher gets "swatted"

  • Mile Cyrus Home newest victim of swatting prank

  • Swatting Prank Mobilize Swat Teams; Baffles Police

  • “Couple Swarmed by SWAT Team After after 911 hack”

  • “Man accused of hacking into 911”

  • Hacker's swatting attack calls police to Langley home

  • SWAT teams responding to 'swatting' hoaxes

Official seal of the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center
Official seal of the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center | Source

Bullies and cowards behind a screen

Bullying has taken on a whole new avenue. Modern day swatters have replaced the phoned in bomb threats of the seventies and eighties with something more sinister. I remember teaching in high schools and every May and June, during the finals testing days,some kid would call in a bomb threat. We would have to stand out in the hot field for a few hours while the building was searched. College campuses are also subject to this abuse.

But now the pranksters have upped the ante and use high tech hacking techniques to phone in these phoney hostage situations to the local police or FBI headquarters. They manage to get into the victims internet account, online game accounts and fake ID's.

According to The FBI’s website, five “swatters” dialed 9-1-1 in more than 60 cities across the US, affecting more than 100 people states, between 2002 and 2006 . These incidents resulted in more than $250,000 in loses to emergency responders and telecommunications providers.

The hackers are getting information from telephone party lines, social websites, forums and other places where personal information is posted. There are reasons for privacy restrictions. With identity theft, and cyber bullying on the rise, one's information can be lethal in the wrong hands.

Most of the hackers are young men between the ages of 14-24. They do it for revenge, bragging rights and the thrill of the challenge.

Miley Cyrus Home being Swatted

The incidents involved innocent families sleeping and minding their own business. None were ever in trouble and were law abiding citizens for the most part. Some of the people involved weren't home at all and the police SWAT team had hours of standoffs thinking there were people in danger.

Can you imagine if the people involved had pulled a gun in self defense as some strangers were banging on the door in the middle of the night? There were small children and some elderly people inside. Are these hackers trying to get people killed? In a small instance,only some of the people were targeted as revenge pranks. For the most part, these were innocent victims.

Celebrities victims of swatting

Celebrities are now being singled out. Miley Cyrus was the victim of a cyber swatter. Emergency workers are sent out at taxpayers expense. A possible real life emergency could be left with fewer responders due to this stupid practice.

Ashton Kutscher Swatted

No one is safe from these bored cyber pranksters, it seems. The latest fad is to call the authorities about celebrities that are in extreme danger. The caller calls 911 and reports hearing gun shots, or a false kidnapping, and the celebrities are the targets.

The latest people in the news are Tom Cruise, Ashton Krutcher, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardasiian.

Watch the news reports and see how seriously the police take these calls.

"Damn Daniel" victim of swatting

Cracking down on Swatters

If you are bored and thinking about calling in a fake terroristic or hostage situation, then you are indeed seriously a human without a conscious. Imagine your family members or friends going through this very same thing. The SWAT team breaks down the door and aims rifles and assault weapons in your face, barking orders to lie on the floor, face down. Of course the these young men want the victims to suffer-that’s the whole point.


Calling in fake hostage situations or hacking the 911 dispatch is a serious offense and the convicted persons are dealt with firmly. The FBI is cracking down on computer hackers. Matthew Weigman, a blind 19-year-old hacker from Massachusetts is now serving 11 years in federal prison for swatting. Hows 10-20 years sound to you for your pranking phone call? The trouble is that these young tech geeks think they'll too smart to get caught. They do brag and eventually are ratted out. No one wants to pull off such a feat and not have their friends know about it.

Tom Cruise has been Swattted

Punishment is Swift

Here are a few stories about these few that are caught and sent away for many years. It's considered a federal felony to hack into systems so think hard before trying it.

  • FBI is cracking down on swatters with one of their biggest arrest of Matthew Weigman, a blind 19-year-old hacker from Massachusetts who is now serving 11 years in federal prison for swatting.

  • Notorious phone phreakier gets 11 years for swatting

  • Juvenile Computer Hacker Sentenced for Computer Intrusion, Interstate Threats, and Wire Fraud Stemming from Hacking, Botnet, and “Swatting” Activities

  • Hacker Gets 5 years for Prank 911 calls

  • Phony 911 call hacker sentenced to 3 years

Final thoughts about Swatters

Unfortunately many hackers go undetected and unpunished. It's a matter of time before one slips up and lets his buddies know what he did. Technology is always advancing so the law enforcement agencies need to recruit the best; even if that means a former hacker. After all, former criminals are used to detect problems in major corporations security systems, why not law enforcement.

Steps to take

Edit what you write on social networks such as town,phone numbers and agenda. Giving out too much information will set anyone up for a prankster to send the local police swat team to your home in the middle of the night. Get anti-tracking software and add on programs to cover your internet tracks. And use common sense. Don't answer every request online to 'friend" someone. Check the requester out before accepting.

Who's to blame?

Are we as a society to blame? Why are these young men disconnected from others? Are there warning signs? Could any of these hackers have easily have been a mass murderer, as in the Columbine incident? Why do they hide behind the relative safety of the keyboard,exacting revenge on their unsuspecting victims?

There must be some warning signs in place to deter and profile these sociopaths. It's difficult to know who is a danger to others If we have failed to identify and treat students out in the public schools, how an we learn from this?

Swatting poll

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of Swatting?

See results

© 2011 Stacie L


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