Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office warns residents about online safety after two 'swatting’ incidents under investigation

Gamers should avoid giving out personal information, location

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. – The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office is warning area residents to stay vigilant when it comes to online safety.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office released a statement alerting residents to two instances of ‘swatting’ that are under investigation.

Swatting, according to the WCSO, is when an individual calls 911 alleging that a serious crime has been committed by an unsuspecting victim.

“The call comes in as something serious like a shooting or hostage situation and is meant to elicit a serious response by local law enforcement or the SWAT team, hence the term swatting,” reads the statement. "Law enforcement shows up to the home of the alleged crime and the unsuspecting family finds themselves in the middle of a very serious police response.”

Swatting ties up police resources and has the potential for serious consequences.

The WCSO statement highlights two recent swatting incidents within Washtenaw County on Aug. 31 and Sept. 6.

In the first incident, which happened around 1:45 a.m on Aug. 31, deputies were told that a 17-year-old Ypsilanti Township resident had shot his mother after an argument. The caller, who used the resident’s actual name, hung up on police dispatch once deputies approached and surrounded the resident’s home in the 1000 block of Rue Willette.

Deputies were forced to engage with the household thinking there was a possible shooter and victim inside, and temporarily detained the 17-year-old before it became clear that the call was fake.

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In the second incident, which occurred around about 1:20 a.m. on Sept. 6, when deputies were called to the in the 2000 block of Valleyview Drive in Superior Township. The swatter pretended to be a 17-year-old resident claiming to have accidentally shot his parents when they found him making a bomb.

WCSO deputies created a perimeter while establishing contact with the household and verified that the parents were not harmed. The caller did not use the resident’s name but did spoof a phone number from the home making it seem like the call came from the home.

Spoofing is when communication information, including phone numbers, is falsified to resemble other numbers.

At this time there both incidents are under investigation and no arrests have been made.

Perpetrators and victims of swatting are generally players of online video games and swatters will research their victims to acquire personal information in order to make calls more believable, according to the sheriff’s office.

Police said that while residents should make sure to maintain their online privacy, gamers should take extra precautions in order to not be victims of swatting.

Precautions include not giving out information about their identity or location in-game chat channels or gaming forums, not use screen names with easily identifiable information and to hide IP addresses through virtual private networks.

Find the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office statement here.


About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.