Many hear about swatting and wonder, “Does this involve an insect?” Swatting is actually a prank that occurs when someone makes a false report to law enforcement, often through 911, about a serious crime. One goal of such a prank is to have armed officers arrive at a specific address. The prank became popular within the gaming community and has even claimed a few lives. Here’s what parents need to know to keep their families safe.
It Can Happen to Anyone
The aforementioned pranksters aren’t necessarily kids trying to get a laugh. They could be strangers children interact with through online games. Strangers with hacking abilities that allow them to track your physical address through an IP address.
Stephen McArthur has earned the nickname The Video Game Lawyer. A former game champ himself, McArthur has made tackling legal issues in the gaming industry his specialty. He spoke to Parentology about a swatting incident involving Kyle Giersdorf, a 16-year-old Fortnite World Cup champion. An incident McArthur equates with attempted murder.
“Someone with Giersdorf’s home address called the police while Giersdorf was streaming and told them there was a live hostage situation at his house,” McArthur recounts. “The goal here is to get the police to take it seriously, sending over a SWAT team that kicks down the door, and potentially guns down the streamer live on camera.”
Potential for High Casualties
One well-known swatting prank that led to a gamer’s death took place in December 2017. A Los Angeles man called the police in Kansas to report an alleged murder and hostage situation. This ultimately led to the fatal shooting of Andrew Finch right outside his home. Business Insider reported the Los Angeles swatter now faces 20 years in prison.
Repercussions for the Swatters
David Reischer, Esq., an attorney and the CEO of LegalAdvice.com, tells Parentology, “At present, there are no federal criminal statutes that specifically outlaw the practice of ‘swatting’. This is because ‘swatting’ is a relatively new [phenomenon] and still a somewhat rare occurrence.”
Steps that are being taken, Reischer says, include, “There are efforts in Congress to pass a federal law that outlaws and severely punishes swatting, but, at present, most prosecutors will need to rely on state law to bring charges.”
He adds, “Typically the state charge is ‘making a false emergency call,’ which in some states could be a felony. In addition, if a person dies as a consequence of the fake emergency call there could be charges brought under second degree unintentional, but reckless, murder.”
What Parents Can Do
Short of banning children and adults from playing online multiplayer games in the home, there’s little parents can do to ensure swatting never happens to their kids. It’s important to educate kids about the dangers of performing swatting. Parents should make them aware of potential repercussions, not only to themselves, but others.
What is Swatting — Sources
Business Insider: A ‘Call Of Duty’ Player Who Tricked Police in a Fatal ‘swatting’ Incident Has Been Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison
Stephen McArthur, The McArthur Law Firm
David Reischer, Esq., LegalAdvice.com