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Swatting: not just a computer crime

The prank called “swatting” gained national attention a few months ago, after a man from Los Angeles, California, made a false call to authorities that resulted in an innocent man’s death. New Jersey residents may associate swatting with arguments that originated online. However, it is important for people to understand the severe penalties that can result from playing this serious joke on others.

In the above-mentioned incident, the California man posed as a man from Wichita, Kansas, and said that he had killed his father and was holding other members of his family hostage. He provided an address, and armed authorities showed up at the unsuspecting man’s home. He was shot and killed when he made a movement that officers misinterpreted as reaching for a weapon. According to Vox, the swatting call was made after a dispute over an online game, although the victim had not been involved in the game.

While many of these calls occur after gaming or social media disputes, numerous other swatting pranks are not believed to have been associated with the internet. A prankster may put in a fake call to authorities to target a person or organization he or she does not like or may simply do it for the thrill.

Swatting has become a significant problem throughout New Jersey in recent years. CentralJersey.com reports that a hospital and numerous high schools have been affected by fake emergency calls and bomb threats. In 2015, a new law went into effect in New Jersey that makes it a second-degree offense to play a swatting prank. A conviction can result in fines of up to $150,000 and five to 10 years in prison. With this new law, potential pranksters may want to think twice before making a call that, at first glance, seems to be only a joke.

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