Swatting Hoax at Bennett Street Residence in Saline

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Emergency vehicles were called to a Bennett Street home early Sunday morning after an online gamer called 911 to falsely report that a father had shot his mother at the home.

Saline Police and other emergency workers were dispatched to the 200 block of West Bennett shortly after 1 a.m., Jan. 1

According to scanner radio files, someone called 911 to report their "father had shot their mother" and then hung up. Emergency workers staged outside the home and eventually gained access to the home. Police determined the call was a hoax, likely perpetrated by an online gamer who was playing with a game with one of the children in the home.

The Saline Post sent questions about the incident and general questions about "swatting" to the Saline Police Department on Sunday. On Monday, Chief Marlene Radzik replied that she was unaware of the incident.

Swatters, often online gamers, identify someone and then call police and other emergency workers to their home as a "prank." 

But police and emergency workers in other locations think it's anything but a game. In some high profile cases across the country, police have been shot at when answering a swatting prank. In one tragic case, police shot the victim of the swatting prank.

At the very least, the prank diverts emergency workers from other tasks. In this instance, police could have been patrolling the roads for drunk drivers early New Year's Day.

If police are able to identify the person behind the swatting prank, the perpetrator could face:

  • A $10,000 fine (misdemeanor) for the false reporting of an emergency.
  • A felony charge if the report results in an injury.
  • Up to 15 years in prison if someone dies as a result of the fake report.

Swatters have often gained access to a victim's smart device and used stolen passwords to log into a live stream camera to watch police arrive. Sometimes, the swatter will even live stream the incident on another platform.

To avoid getting swatted, protect your smart home devices using these tips from the FBI:

  • Use complex passwords or passphrases for online accounts
  • Avoid duplicate passwords across different accounts.
  • Update your passwords or passphrases regularly.
  • Practice good cyber hygiene.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all online accounts and any device that touches the Internet. For an additional layer of authentication, use a mobile phone number, virtual or physical tokens, or biometric options (such as a face or fingerprint scan).

Online gamers can prevent swatting by keeping their identity concealed and not divulging information that identifies them or reveals where they live. Some suggest using a VPN service to mask their IP address.

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