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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | article

S.W.A.T.ting, a Harmful Prank and Costly Cyber Crime

Emergency services like 9-1-1 dispatch are there to help you when you are in need, not for entertainment. However, some individuals seem to get kicks out of pranking the individuals whose job it is to protect us when we are in need. The act of making a prank call to 9-1-1 or other emergency services is referred to by those in the cyber crime industry as S.W.A.T.ting, derived from the name given to the covert Special Weapons and Tactics team that local police departments employ to stealthily handle high-pressure conflict situations. However, despite the allure of the name, this is hardly an admirable activity.

There are many ways that individuals go about S.W.A.T.ting that could allow them not only to disguise the origin of the prank call but also mask the voice of the caller and even add background sound effects. Many callers go to even greater lengths, using prepaid cell phones or even paying an anonymous second party to make the call.

Depending on what resources are put into use as a result of this prank, some calls cost law enforcement up to $10,000. This is not only a drain on funds, but also a distraction when these individuals could be taking care of real issues, including life or death situations, instead of making response times for illegitimate calls far longer than they need to be.

Currently, legislators are working on creating a law that will make S.W.A.T.ting a felony crime with a jail sentence that could go up to four years. Not only that, but some lawmakers are also pushing to include a reimbursement fee in the penalties for individuals who commit this crime so that taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for someone else’s crime.

Remember this as you educate your children and discuss online safety.