KyleXWHyy had just finished livestreaming when he heard police coming down the hall. He immediately knew he was being swatted—a dangerous type of prank—but there was nothing he could do about it. Thankfully, because the caller who had claimed he had killed people hadn’t been able to give police his real name, it was cleared up very quickly. Still, a dozen police officers pointing guns with a half-dozen squad cars flashing lights led to an intense situation. He was lucky.
Swatting has become a bit of an epidemic, especially among livestreamers. It happens when someone calls the police in a livestreamer’s area and reports that they have killed someone, or are holding hostages, and they send the police, and often a SWAT team, after them.
Besides being a nuisance to the community the gamer resides in, it’s incredibly risky. Police don’t take chances, and as DrPoom can attest to, having live guns aimed at you can lead to some crazy situations.
When DrPoom was swatted, the perpetrator told the police he had killed his wife and taken his kids hostage. The police reacted the way they should of, and DrPoom ended up with snipers on the roof across the street, police busting into his house, and even into his brother and sister’s house.
“I would have been killed if my family member had not answered the door,” DrPoom said. “If I heard the door busted in I would have come out with my gun thinking I was being robbed.”
Thankfully, he was eating a cheeseburger while livestreaming, and having family answer the door helped to defuse the situation. It could have easily gone much worse though.
In his case, the perpetrator not only called the police, but also posted his family’s address on the livestream’s chat.
Unfortunately swatting is all too easy. While many people with an online presence try to protect their identity, Whois databases that track website ownership and public records of business owners make it relatively easy to find a person’s address. From there, a simple web search will turn up the number to their local police department.
In KyleXWHyy’s case the perpetrator called from a restricted line. For DrPoom, the perpetrator called from a burner phone.
In both cases, the police are investigating, and while penalties for making a false report to police vary depending on the state, they can be severe. Jail times range from 30 days to 15 YEARS depending on the state, and fines are almost always attached, ranging from $500 to $200,000 (if no one is hurt). If someone gets hurt though, the swatter can be facing additional jail time and fines. Of course, this is just on the criminal side. Swatters can also be held liable in civil court for damage to property, injuries, emotional trauma, etc.
Both police departments involved in KyleXWHyy and DrPoom’s cases declined to give us a quote citing not giving in to attention-seeking behavior.
In the meantime, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself. Be careful about using your real name (unless it’s really common), and giving away identifying information, such as where you live. If you own a website, use Whois Privacy. Get a PO Box to serve as an address for mail or registering for anything online. When you’re registering your business, you can use a rented box at a UPS or FedEx store for the address to protect yourself. In many states, you can also create a DBA for little or no cost, to protect your identity further.
We should also all condemn swatting. Don’t give swatters attention, don’t joke about it, and don’t do it! The consequences, both personally and for the online community, are severe. It’s no laughing matter.