The police chief of a large Midwestern town is awakened at 2:40 AM by the local 911 dispatcher. She reports that a caller from a home in town stated that she and her children were being held hostage by her ex-husband who had a gun and was threatening to kill them all. The dispatcher confirmed that the 911 caller ID system matched the address given by the caller. As the police chief suits up and heads for the scene other officers take up over watch positions around the home and close off traffic on adjoining streets. The regional SWAT team, including dogs and a robot is staged just out of sight of the target residents. On arrival the chief is told that the resident is dark and no movement is observed. Being suspicious he tells the team to hold in place while he cross checks the call in data with information about that resident. Finding non-matching information he called the residents and finds a sleeping elderly couple who have no idea what’s going on. Thus a potentially disastrous incident is just an expensive false alarm.
This police department has just been the victim of an increasingly common internet crime known as the “swatting”. Hackers hack the phone ID system and are able to make calls from any location in the world but spoof the caller ID system into providing the 911 dispatcher with a false address. They can then call in a serious crime or hostage situation at your home and apparently from your home or business. Thus activating a full SWAT response and potential violent breaching entry. This new type of false alarm on steroids can have a huge impact on your safety and on police capabilities.
• These calls set up the potential for fatal encounters as combat ready SWAT team members encounter startled and unsuspecting citizens.
• The call can accidentally or deliberately divert critical police resources away from actual crime scenes or terrorist assaults.
• Frequent call-outs can wear down SWAT team members and their limited budgets making them less able to respond to real situations.
• Distrust of the 911 caller ID systems immediately calls for double checking and caution before acting on such calls. While this is often a good practice it could cost critical time when immediate action is needed to save lives.
Remember that the perpetrators can be halfway around the world and virtually impossible to catch. Someone who does not like you or just wants to see your home or business raided can now activate a full SWAT response and set up a situation where you and your family could get injured or killed for no reason. Security systems for protection have become a must now and days. Don’t get caught off guard by looters or the police who have been fed false information.