Adam M. is the CEO of Instagram and a longtime employee of the social media giant Facebook…
He is also proof that no one is safe from the crime of “swatting.”
Adam was the target of an online attacker who called in a fake hostage situation at Adam’s San Francisco home.
The phone calls from the criminal led to a SWAT team responding to the home.
Thankfully, no one was hurt. But, there have been other cases where police confronted innocent victims with guns drawn.
The crime, known as “swatting,” is an extremely dangerous action where bad guys sic the police on innocent people.
It’s a prank that goes way too far.
It started as a seldom-seen crime outside of the online gaming community.
But recently, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have seen a sharp increase.
It’s believed this is because it’s where many wealthy tech executives live.
In fact, people have been using swatting to target Facebook employees.
To make matters worse, there are dedicated swatting forums online.
These forums are hidden from public view. But, they share private information about innocent people.
Information from the forums show that Instagram and Facebook employees are prime targets.
Lately, criminals have found ways to be more convincing when contacting police.
Cyber hackers are now focusing on home security systems as a tool to dispatch police.
They are hacking into home security systems and alerting police to an alarm at the house.
The homeowner may never know about it until the police show up.
Law enforcement is going to believe the call is real since it is coming from an alarm company.
According to the FBI, “Offenders have been using victims’ smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks.”
The thing is, tracking down these internet trolls can be difficult.
So, here are a few ways to protect yourself from being a victim in the first place.
Contact the police beforehand:
If you have been threatened with swatting, or think you may become a victim contact your local police department to make a report.
Ask them if there is a way to add notes to your specified address.
This way if police dispatch types in your address they will be notified that you may be the victim of swatting.
Use a different name on social media:
If someone has your name and city where you live, it can be pretty easy to find out your address.
A simple internet search can share a lot of information.
But, to protect your identity you should use a different last name on social media, or use your middle name.
Or, if you go by a nickname consider using that.
Think of all the people who can find out your location from Instagram or Facebook tags.
All they need is a city and a name. They can put the rest of the information together.
If you use chat forums you should always use a different name.
One little comment can send another person over the edge – and you may be their prime target.
Avoid live broadcasting:
A lot of folks like to use Zoom nowadays or stream live on Facebook.
This is a great way to share information in real-time, but it can share too much information.
The problem is you can’t edit out any pictures of your family that may appear in the background.
Or you could expose a specific landmark giving your location away.
And you never know who is watching…
One little thing you say or share could upset someone watching.
The more legitimate information they give police the more likely they are to respond as if the call is real.
So, live broadcasting is perfect for criminals looking to carry out a swatting call.
You don’t need to be a celebrity or an online gamer to be “swatted.”
It is enough to have your address somewhere online and to cross paths with someone crazy enough to put your life at risk.
Lastly, consider owning your home in an LLC and never putting your real name anywhere associated with your home (it’s what I do.)
Use these tips to limit your risk and to help you to stay safe.