What Does Swatting Someone Mean? The Practice Can Have Deadly Consequences

Melissa Willets - Author

Dec. 26 2023, Published 12:43 p.m. ET

SWAT team members responding to a threat at Boston University on Nov. 18, 2016
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • The practice of swatting is very dangerous and can have deadly results.
  • There have been cases of swatting individuals that left the targets dead.
  • Law enforcement and government officials are attempting to crack down on swatting.
Article continues below advertisement

You may have heard of swatting, but what exactly is it? When you swat someone, you report a false crime taking place, with an innocent person being the target.

Swatting is running rampant in the gaming community — and with celebrities as targets. Why? Law enforcement and the government are trying to crack down on the potentially deadly practice. Details are ahead.

Article continues below advertisement
A police officer holding a gun
Source: Getty Images

So what does swatting someone mean?

Swatting is when you falsely report a crime to law enforcement. An example would be calling in an incident involving drugs, a hostage, a burglary, or a murder in progress — but nothing of the sort is going on.

This "prank" not only expends law enforcement's efforts unnecessarily, but can lead to extremely serious, unintended consequences — even death.

Article continues below advertisement

Security expert Lauren R. Shapiro, associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explained this form of harassment to NBC News, saying, “Swatting involves people making fraudulent 911 calls reporting serious-level criminal threats or violent situations like bomb threats, hostages, killing, etc. to fool the police into raiding the house or business of somebody who is not actually committing a crime.”

The outlet reported that in at least a few known cases, swatting — of which there are at least 1,000 known incidents since 2019 — has ended tragically.

For example, in 2021, a man named Mark Herring suffered a heart attack and died when police responded to a false shooting report at his Tennessee home.

Article continues below advertisement

Gamers are especially susceptible to being swatted. In 2017, a gamer named Casey S. Viner called in a false report of a homicide at Andrew Finch's home after a fight over a video game, per CNN. Police ultimately killed the Wichita man.

“Swatting is not a prank, and it is no way to resolve disputes among gamers,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said at the time. Viner was sentenced to over a year in prison for his role in the horrific accident.

Article continues below advertisement

Law enforcement is trying to end swatting.

The reason that swatting began with gamers is that they may give away personal information that makes them targets in the course of play, including their identity and location.

Technology that gamers may also be familiar with, such as the ability to disguise one's voice and IP address, helps people pull off this very scary prank.

Dexerto called swatting "every streamer's worst nightmare."

One victim, Pixel Kitten, claimed "taunters" sent pizza to her home to confirm the address before a SWAT team arrived, fully armed due to a false report of a shooting in progress.

Article continues below advertisement

While the government is reportedly attempting to crack down on swatting, laws and technology have to catch up to what gamers and hackers are able to do.

At this time, the False Information and Hoaxes statute is what lawyers are using to prosecute swatters. There's also an online database that has been created to keep track of swatting activity in various states.

It's worth noting that even celebrities aren't immune to these hoaxes, with the likes of Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher, and Miley Cyrus have been victims of swatting.

In the first two cases, a 12-year-old boy was behind the incidents. He was later sentenced in juvenile court, per CNN.

More from Distractify

Latest FYI News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.