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'Swatting' calls pose increased threat to lawmakers, federal officials

A new bill, the Preserving Safe Communities by Ending Swatting Act of 2024, would impose strict penalties for these fake emergencies.
'Swatting' calls pose increased threat to lawmakers, federal officials
Posted at 12:49 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 14:50:58-05

Picture this: One minute you're on your couch watching TV, the next your home is surrounded by a SWAT team. It's known as "swatting," and it's something the FBI first warned about in 2008. Back then, the department said the schemes can be sophisticated, but a cybercrimes expert says that's not the case today.

"A lot of these swatters are not very sophisticated. They're pretty much Googling a name, trying to find an address for that name, and then Googling what police department oversees where that person lives," said Keven Hendricks, a former member of an FBI and DEA task forces targeting cybercrime, and the founder of Stopdarkwebdrugs.com.

Some states, like California and Virginia, have passed laws to increase the penalty for swatting. Sen. Rick Scott is one member of Congress pushing for a new law on the federal level, in part because he was a victim of a swatting call in December.

The bill, the Preserving Safe Communities by Ending Swatting Act of 2024, would impose strict penalties for these fake emergencies, with perpetrators facing up to 20 years in prison if someone is seriously hurt, and facing life in prison if someone is killed. 

Other swatting victims include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, special counsel Jack Smith, and presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Haley was away on the campaign trail at the time, but her elderly parents were home.

"The last thing you want is to see multiple officials with guns drawn and pointing at my parents. It is an awful situation. It put the law enforcement officers in danger. It put my family in danger," Haley said on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Jan 28.

But even if no one is hurt or killed, the impact of swatting is very real.

"These aren't nuisances. These aren't, you know, this isn't kids playing around on the telephone. ...these are crimes and you know, people are being targeted, and it is a waste of resources at a minimum," said Hendricks.

On Wednesday, the head of the U.S. Marshals told Congress there's been an alarming increase in threats to federal judges — and those threats include swatting calls. The FBI started a database in May 2023 to track swatting calls around the country, and over 550 incidents have been reported in the past nine months.

SEE MORE: Maine official who removed Trump from ballot targeted in swatting call


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