US 'swatting' Bill will jail crank callers for five years to life

It's just not funny when you tell the FBI your mates are holding hostages

50 Reg comments Got Tips?

A loophole in US law could make it harder for criminal hackers to call in false high-profile threats to police if an anti-swatting Bill introduced this week gains traction.

Swatting is the name given to the act of calling in to police false reports of high-risk emergencies. Criminal hackers and gamers are notorious for swatting as a jape, calling in a fake hostage situation at a rival's home address where armed police will charge down doors with guns raised.

The FBI registers about 400 swatting calls a year with bills running up to US$100,000 per incident.

The Interstate Swatting Hoax Act of 2015 (PDF) will amend US law to make it a criminal violation to phone in a fake emergency response to police.

The Bill was introduced by representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and could see perpetrators fined and jailed for up five years if no injury results.

Hoax callers face 20 years if serious bodily injury results and life behind bars if the swatting incident causes death.

Civil penalties can also result.

YouTube is littered with swatting videos where police have been called against live-streaming gamers.

Clark and Meehan say the Bill it will crimp the dangerous swatting trend.

“Perpetrators of these hoaxes purposefully use our emergency responders to harm their victims,” Clark says in a statement.

“These false reports are dangerous and costly, and have resulted in serious injury to victims and law enforcement."

Meehan says law enforcement are already "struggling" to protect the public, adding that swatting costs additional time and tax dollars.

"Swatting cases divert attention from serious situations that require the attention of highly trained personnel and puts innocent civilians at risk."

Police agencies across Australia have told this reporter swatting is not an issue Down Under, however anecdotal rumour of it happening exist. ®


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