The anonymous nature of social media, multi-player online gaming and other internet activities can make people feel safe doing something they would never do in real life. This might include getting into vicious verbal sparring, making threats against others and even attempting to get revenge on someone after an online slight. You and other West Virginia residents who spend time on the internet should understand that some online behaviors may result in criminal repercussions.

The term “swatting” may be familiar to you. The following points outline the basics about this type of prank:

  • The name refers to luring large amounts of law enforcement, or SWAT teams, to an unsuspecting person’s address by making a false police report.
  • People often play this prank on someone after a disagreement over social media or online gaming.
  • Celebrities and people with recent news stories have also been frequent swatting targets.
  • Swatting can come with a charge of filing a false report to law enforcement, as well as other charges depending on the incident.

You may remember a well-publicized swatting prank that occurred last December, which showed exactly how serious swatting can be. After two online players got involved in a dispute, one player contacted a third person and gave him an address with a request to prank the person. Reportedly, the man targeted was not involved in the gaming dispute. Officers arrived at his home after receiving a report that the caller had killed a family member and was holding other relatives hostage. They fatally shot the unsuspecting resident when they mistakenly thought he was reaching for a weapon. The swatting suspect was arrested and is facing charges for manslaughter.

In the heat of the moment, it might be easy to focus only on getting back at the other person. However, as the above story shows, it is wise to consider what might happen when playing a prank that has serious potential consequences.