llegal and dangerous “Swatting” pranks are increasing and targeting individuals are increasing high profile.

Since the early 2000s, Swatting incidents have risen from neighborhood prank, to streamer and content creators, to now political and legal officials working in the government.

What is Swatting?

Swatting is a dangerous prank that starts with a call to an emergency number to send a heavily armed and tactically proficient team to someone’s home, school, or office. Other targets have included shopping malls, airports, and non-residential locations.

The call, which kicks off the armed response, usually includes the false reporting of a bomb threat, hostage situation, terrorism, or even murder. The calls are generally made anonymously.

Swatting has resulted in property damage, injury, and even death. Not only does swatting put people in danger, but it also wastes limited time, and resources and can put the officers at risk.

Where is it happening?

A March 23 incident in Hudson, MA, is under investigation as a possible swatting incident.

According to the police, they responded to a call shortly before 1 a.m. on Saturday that a family member in the household had been shot and another family member was under threat.

“I would like to acknowledge our dispatchers and the officers on the patrol shift for their professionalism and utilizing their training and experience to safely respond to this disturbing call,” Hudson Police Chief Richard DiPersio said in a written statement. “The safety of our community is our top priority. I would like to assure the community we remain dedicated and prepared to protect and serve the residents of Hudson.”

That same night, in Nashville, TN, the Misfits Boxing 13 event had to be delayed after the second round due to a bomb threat at the Worldwide Stages.

After a thorough check of the facility, the event continued after a short delay.

In 2017, an unarmed man was shot to death by a Kansas police officer after a hoax call and another man died in 2020 in Tennessee from a heart attack following a swatting call.

How is swatting even possible?

With advances in technology, internet calling, VPN, and more; it is becoming harder and harder for law enforcement agencies to determine which calls are real or fake. But how are these perpetrators getting away with it?

Spoofing – A technique known as ‘spoofing’ allows someone to fake their number, hide their details, or even create a false location that makes it harder for law enforcement to determine where the call is coming from, who is making the call, and if it is a legitimate report.

Social Engineering – Using knowledge of the local area, the victim, and even the (alleged) perpetrator, the person making can convince the dispatcher of the legitimacy of an incident.

Collaboration – Some pranksters even have the help of someone close to the victim to coordinate the prank/attack.

Hacking – Much like social engineering, a hacker can use their skills to gain access to information about the victim to make the call seem more legitimate.

Is it illegal?

The short and Sweet answer is yes. Swatting is very illegal.

A swatting prank is false reporting and can lead to other charges. These other charges can include harassment, endangerment, and more.

Consequences of swatting can include criminal charges, civil lawsuits, injury, or death. This can also include the damaging to not only the victim’s record and reputation but also the false reporter’s record and reputation can be affected as well.

How can swatting affect you?

“Getting ‘swatted’ should generally have no relevance to a security clearance determination,” says, Sean Bigley, ClearanceJobs legal correspondent. “A ‘swatting’ victim is just that – a victim – and none of the thirteen adjudicative guidelines penalize security clearance applicants for falling victim to a crime.

“On the other hand, a security clearance-holder or applicant who engaged in “swatting” would likely have a difficult time getting or keeping their clearance,” continued Bigley. “This type of serious, pre-meditated behavior is exactly the kind of moral turpitude issue that would set off major alarm bells for personnel security officials.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever seen this issue come up in a security clearance case, but I did see plenty of cases involving bad judgment and technology during my ten years practicing security clearance law,” Bigley continued. “As technological advances make it easier for bad actors to hide their identity, we’ll start to see more situations like this pop up in the security clearance denial and revocation cases.”

What is being done to counter this trend?

Rick Scott, the Senator of Florida, and other representatives introduced legislation to expand a criminal hoax statute to specifically prohibit swatting and impose stiffer penalties.

The prank caught Scott’s attention after his own home was swatted in Naples, FL in Dec.

“This legislation would impose strict penalties for swatting, including up to 20 years in prison if someone is seriously hurt because of a swatting attack,” Scott said.

In Jan., police in Southern California arrested a 17-year-old, known as ‘torswats’, who has become an unofficial swatting kingpin. The arrest is being treated as a major win against a recent string of swattings against political figures.

In June 2023, the FBI announced the creation of a national database to track and prevent swatting.

Chief Scott Schubert with the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services headquarters in Clarksburg, West Virginia, told news outlets that the agency formed a national online database in May to facilitate information sharing between police departments and law enforcement agencies about swatting incidents.

As the government continues to learn and build up its defenses against swatting, it seems that it is up to state-level law enforcement to adopt laws that will deter pranksters from continuing this trend.

States such as California and Virginia have begun implementing new laws to curb the continuing of these dangerous pranks. In Virginia, a prank 911 call is a misdemeanor. Making a prank 911 call can carry a $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail, and swatting may be considered a felony.

For more information on swatting, you can check out the FBI’s website here.

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Aaron Knowles has been writing news for more than 10 years, mostly working for the U.S. Military. He has traveled the world writing sports, gaming, technology and politics. Now a retired U.S. Service Member, he continues to serve the Military Community through his non-profit work.