Kids began “swatting” pranks – to make a call so serious that a S.W.A.T. team must be called in – as a modern-day extension of the old school prank calls asking, “Is your refrigerator running” or bomb scare calls, says Michael Loftin, senior Internet forensic analyst for the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia,
“Unfortunately, swatting calls are going to get somebody innocent killed,” Loftin says. “When you make a call with a claim serious enough to get a S.W.A.T. team called in, think about the consequences of that for a moment. Imagine being in your bed at night and a flash bomb coming through your window. You get up with maybe a flashlight or something in hand and the team comes in and they’re thinking you’re the threat because of the call. Maybe there are little kids in that house.”
However, parents can do something about this right now, he says.
“It’s as simple as Googling your child’s name to see where he or she has accounts that may be beyond your current knowledge such as YouTube, multiple social media accounts, and especially Google Voice,” Loftin advised me in a phone interview this morning. Google Voice is a publicly available free feature that allows you to set up multiple accounts and make calls that appear to come from different area codes than the one you live in.
“Parents need to go back and sit down with their kids and explain the consequences, but they also have to do some research of their own and know what accounts their children have,” Loftin said. “If they don’t understand how to do this kind or research then call me and I’ll walk them through it.”
I explained to the good detective that the Internet’s a big place and his phone would be ringing, but he wasn’t daunted by that. Although he was careful with his information, “People can contact you and you can put them through to me.” Oh good, now I’m Batmom.