Swatting :: It Can Happen To You Or Your Kids {An Online Danger Parents Need to Know About}

Swatting :: It Can Happen To You Or Your Kids {An Online Danger Parents Need to Know About}

“I Got Swatted”

I was putting my kids to bed one night a few weeks ago when I received a text from a close friend that read, “so I just got swatted. I figured I should tell someone.” Of course, I picked up the phone immediately and called her. At that time, I had absolutely no idea about swatting. She was panicked and scared. As I asked her what happened, she said that she was streaming on Twitch and someone got her personal info and called the cops on her. She was live streaming as she has done many times before, and shortly after the stream ended, the police showed up at her door due to a (very false) report of a gruesome crime having been committed at her home. The police were very understanding after talking to her, and they explained that she was likely swatted. Not everyone is so lucky to have good outcomes when they are a victim of swatting (Google to read examples). And yes, this happened right here in the greater New Orleans area.

What is Swatting?

Swatting is when someone calls the police to report a crime so that a SWAT team will be dispatched. Swatting is very intentionally done while someone is streaming so that they (and the police intrusiom) can be seen in real-time. It’s a very cruel prank that happens to streamers, gamers and YouTube personalities. In 2015, swatting became a federal crime in the U.S. with those convicted facing up to life in prison.

Could it happen to me?

I expect things of this nature to happen to large, online personalities, but I didn’t have any clue that these types of pranks would happen to regular, everyday people like my friend. In my hometown. Down the road from me. And if it could happen to her, could it happen to my kids? Surely not, we have screen time limitations and safeguards in place. So I began researching what we could do as a family to protect ourselves and our kids.

Who is at risk of being swatted? 

Online personalities, Influencers, YouTube bloggers, celebrities and public figures are most often “swatted,” though any active contributor to an online community whose account is not in private mode is a target. For example, an average gamer, public social media users and anyone who may not be active online but has information published on sites online is also at risk. WhitePages, Spokeo, MyLife, etc… are all examples of this last point. If your children are playing video games over WiFi or engaged in streaming or play on social media, then yes, they are at risk. Of course, being “live online” is the primary danger, but the reality is that being online puts your personal information at risk and if a criminal knows you are online AND at home … you are at risk.

What can we do as parents? 

  • First, have a candid conversation with your family about sharing any personal information online, even with those contacts perceived as “friends.” Don’t share your real name, city, school, parents or sibling info – nothing. Talk often with your children about not sharing data online via ANY messenger app. And no, Snapchat does not ever disappear, kids!
  • Ensure online profiles are wiped clean of any personal information, including location.
  • Remove personal information from the web. Two websites to consiser :: http://Incogni.com or https://onerep.com. With these sites, you can employ their services to delete information on your behalf. You can also do this on your own at no cost here: https://wiki.onerep.com. That said, be sure to check back every few months to ensure nothing was added back.
  • Secure your IP address by establishing a VPN. At our house, we use NordVPN. A VPN is a virtual private network which keeps your private personal and company data secure by changing your IP address regularly. A VPN also has a layer of strong encryption to protect anyone from seeing your activity or personal information.

Fear is a protective mechanism

When this first happened, I was scared. That fear prompted me to take action and use the fear response to help establish protocols to protect my family. There is a way for us to scroll through social media, as well as allow our kids to game with friends online. That said, we have to make sure we are taking precautions to help keep our families safe. Swatting happens all over the country every day. You don’t think it can happen to you until it does. Having the police arrive unannounced at the door assuming that there is a very real threat or crime happening (when that is, in fact, a lie) is alarming and stressful. There is no reason to leave your family open to this possibility.

What precautions are you taking? Have you heard of swatting? 


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