Swatting is a relatively new addition to the urban dictionary. If you’re not sure what “swatting” is, the clue is in the name.
SWAT teams are called in when there is an emergency, such as a suspected terrorist attack or armed robbery. Armed officers show up, create a cordon around the address, and work to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, not all calls to emergency services are legitimate. Swatting, as it is known as, refers to a hoax call that triggers a SWAT team to arrive at a person’s address. It’s usually done as a prank or in revenge for some perceived slight, no matter how trivial.
To those who make the call, swatting is a hilarious prank. These events may be live-streamed, often because the victim is an online gamer or YouTuber. To those watching the event unfold, it’s probably very funny, but for the victim – and the officers – it can be deadly.
Imagine how terrifying it would be if you’re watching TV with your family and a SWAT team bursts through your front door. Your dog and kids could be shot in the ensuing chaos and at the very least, you’ll end up with PTSD.
When Swatting Turns Deadly
In 2017, a gamer from Wichita, Kansas, was shot dead by an armed officer after being swatted by a rival on Call of Duty: WWII. The man who called in the SWAT team, a self-confessed “serial swatter”, was indicted and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. That’s a lot of years to think about what he could have done differently.
In July of this year, the winner of the Fortnite World Cup was swatted while he live-streamed. Fortunately, disaster was averted when one of the swat team recognized Kyle Giersdorf and realized the call was a hoax.
Swatting is a real problem for gamers, online stars, and celebrities, but with a few simple steps, it is possible to minimize your chances of being swatted by a rival or disgruntled fan.
Protect Your Personal Information
SWAT teams can’t be mobilized unless they have an address to go to. Therefore, it’s helpful if your address isn’t available to view online by all and sundry. For obvious reasons, this isn’t always possible if you are a well-known celebrity, but for everyone else, it’s worth verifying how easy it is to find your address online.
Use people search sites like Nuwber to see what information is available on public access databases. Check to see if your address is searchable on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and people search engines. If you find your personal data on any dodgy people search websites, follow the intsructions to opt out manually or make use of OneRep tool to have your sensitive personal data removed.
Move to Seattle
Seattle police department has come up with an innovative way to prevent swatting. The city is home to a number of tech companies, gamers, and online celebs. In response to a request from a well-known celeb, Seattle PD set up a registry where people can add their name and address if they fear they might be swatted. If a report comes in requesting a SWAT team, officers can search the register and proceed with caution if the person’s name is listed.
Sadly, Seattle PD is way ahead of the curve and most other police departments have no idea swatting even exists. So, if you suspect you are at risk, protect your name and address online and pray that other law enforcement departments wise up sooner rather than later.