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SWATting, Using Technology To Hurt

Swatting is making prank calls to emergency services. In the field of information security, swatting is an attempt to trick an emergency service (such as a 911 operator) to dispatch an emergency response team, generally a SWAT team. SWAT is (Special Weapons and Tactics).

Caller ID spoofing technologies are used to send law officers on bogus calls along with, social engineering, and phone phreaking techniques combined. 911 systems (including telephony and human operators) have been tricked by calls placed from cities hundreds of miles away.

Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to display a number on the recipient’s caller ID display which is not that of the actual originating caller. Similar to e-mail spoofing which can make it appear that a message came from any e-mail address the sender chooses, caller ID spoofing can make a call appear to have come from any phone number. Most people trust caller ID and are unaware of caller ID spoofing. This is obviously a flawed system ripe for fraud.

MSNBC reports Doug Bates and his wife, Stacey, were in bed around 10 p.m., their 2-year-old daughters asleep in a nearby room. Suddenly they were shaken awake by the wail of police sirens and the rumble of a helicopter above their suburban Southern California home. A criminal must be on the loose, they thought.

Doug Bates got up to lock the doors and grabbed a knife. A beam from a flashlight hit him. He peeked into the backyard. A swarm of police, assault rifles drawn, ordered him out of the house. Bates emerged, frightened and with the knife in his hand, as his wife frantically dialed 911. They were handcuffed and ordered to the ground while officers stormed the house.

They were victims of swatting that exploits a weakness in the way the 911 system handles calls from Internet-based phone services.

Dallas News reports a group of people met on telephone chat lines who harassed people through swatting. They would pick a target and their caller ID information to make it appear they were calling from that person’s house.

They would phone that person’s local police and pretend they were about to go on a killing spree, triggering a SWAT or patrol officer response. The group pulled this scam across the country.

There were some reports of injuries by police storming houses of innocent, unsuspecting people whom police thought were holding hostages at gunpoint.

This is difficult to prevent. Unlisting your home phone number can help. Not having a home phone number and being mobile based is even better. In the off chance you are ever selected to be swatted, the best response is to “show your hands”. Law enforcements concern is a weapon.

While completely unrelated, protect your identity too.

Get a credit freeze. Go to and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk


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