What is swatting? Here’s what you need to know about the act of making false police reports with malicious intent, and how to protect yourself from it

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If you’ve been following livestreamers on Twitch or YouTube for a while, you might have heard the term “Swatting.” Swatting, also known as “SWATing,” is the act of sending police to an unsuspecting victim’s home under pretenses.

Although swatting is rare, it has made the news several times over the past few years. In some cases, it’s resulted in injuries and deaths. And as livestreaming becomes more popular and streamers and influencers make more of their private lives public, the risk of swatting goes up and up.

Here’s everything to know about swatting, including how it works, who the usual targets are, and how to protect yourself from it.

Swatting, explained

Swatting is when a person makes a false report to the police to make them startle, arrest, or even harm an unsuspecting victim. 

People who call in these swatting attempts usually tell the police that the victim is a violent criminal or is holding hostages. These sorts of reports cause police to act quickly, usually without verifying the report, to stop the supposed criminal as fast as possible.

Swatting gets its name from the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) division of police — the sort of police units usually called in to deal with active shooters and similar situations. 

Most swatting incidents end with police showing up at someone’s door and scaring them. Some go as far as to arrest them. Either way, they’re intended to harm the victim and waste resources.

One high profile case involved a man in Los Angeles, Tyler Barriss, calling the cops on a man in Kansas, Andrew Finch. Barriss told police that Finch had killed a family member and held two others hostage — when the police arrived at Finch’s house, they shot and killed him. Barriss was later arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. 

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Various lawmakers have proposed and passed bills to punish swatters. As of 2015, swatting is a federal crime in the United States and can be punished with life in prison.

Livestreamers are often a target of swatting

Although swatting has happened for decades, the advent of livestreaming on the internet has brought the crime into the limelight. 

Livestreamers, especially those with a large public presence, are a prime target for swatting. This is because it’s easier for the perpetrator to find exactly where the streamer lives, and if they get it right, they can watch the streamer deal with the unexpected police visit live on camera.

In 2014, Jordan Mathewson endured the horror of a live on-camera police raid and arrest while streaming “Counter-Strike.” In 2019, swatters called the cops on 16-year-old “Fortnite” streamer Kyle Giersdorf — luckily, one of the officers recognized Giersdorf and called off the raid. In both cases, the police arrived while the victim was streaming live.

And because being a public figure and swatting go hand in hand, another group swatters have zeroed in on are celebrities: Tom Cruise, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber have all been swatting targets. 

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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech

      

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