Online Gamers Take Up “Swatting,” Fooling Police Departments Nationwide


One caller to 911 said he shot co-workers at a Colorado video game company and had hostages. Another in Florida said her drunk father was wielding a machine gun and threatening their family. A third caller on Long Island claimed to have killed his mother and threatened to shoot first responders. Each time, SWAT teams found no violent criminals or wounded victims but rather video game players sitting at their computers, the startled victims of a hoax known as “swatting,” the Associated Press reports. The hoax that initially targeted celebrities has now become a way for players of combat-themed video games to retaliate against opponents while thousands of spectators watch. AP says, “The perpetrators can watch their hijinks unfold minute by minute in a window that shows a live video image of other players.”

“It’s like creating your own episode of ‘Cops,'” said Dr. John Grohol, a psychologist who studies online behavior. The players, who are often many miles away, look up opponents’ addresses in phone directories, sometimes using services that can find unlisted numbers. They also exploit online programs that trick 911 dispatchers into believing an emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone or address. All the while, they conceal their own identities and locations. “You can literally do it from around the world,” said Justin Cappos, a computer scientist at New York University. “It can be very challenging (to solve) depending on the sophistication of the person doing it.”

Comments are closed.