By Kirstyn Plummer – OCSN03
It’s every parent’s nightmare. A stranger gets into your kid’s head and convinces them to do something they shouldn’t. The question is, what happens when your child is smart enough to ignore them, and the person follows through?
Today, a Bayville family experienced just that when they were the subject of a SWATting incident on September 6th, 2022. Which happened to be the first day of a new school year.
After chatting with people on Discord, who tried to convince the Bayville Teenager (14) that they should do things they shouldn’t including but not limited to posting compromising pictures of themselves), the teenager smartly blocked them and ignored the threats against their family. They had assumed it was just a harmless threat that would go no-were, like many such threats.
The Bayville teen could not have known the depths that these people would sink to in obtaining details. This included finding out their home address, or that they would use them to make a false report, claiming there was an incident where someone was injured, and a gun/guns were involved.
It wasn’t until their home (as well those of their neighbors on Dolphin Circle) had been searched by law enforcement, that the parent of the teen was notified, who then had to rush home to speak to the police.
Since the incident was reported there have been multiple rumors about what was “actually” going on. First was reports of a domestic violence incident involving a stabbing, and another rumor of kids calling in the swatting to get out of school, but the police have deemed the original swat call “unfounded” and stated they could not find any weapons or injured persons at the location.
What is SWATting?
SWATting is a term that has become part of the standard lexicon of today’s young adults and youth. It’s a very scary and serious thing where someone calls in 1 or more 911 reports of a serious incident happening at a certain location.
Early SWATting incidents have been linked to gaming groups calling in on other players they don’t like or rival groups who have beat them, but this is a serious thing and by no means, not a joke.
Often times, SWATting results in a local area’s SWAT (or Special Weapons And Tactics) Team breaking down (breaching) doors by force and brandishing weapons. In such charged situations, is very possible for people to be startled and run, or even respond in ways that cause injury or harm.
How Did This Happen?
When asked how the individuals got their child’s address, the parent was un-aware, but the truth is, it’s not the hardest thing to find.
Many persons, who fill in a form for a giveaway, or prize of some sort, don’t often realize they are consenting to their address being used for marketing, and that it isn’t very hard to setup a fake site to collect such info, without giving anything away. Also, Phone Number databases can be accessed for free, or sometimes with a modest subscription often giving relative names, and how long a person has lived at a certain address as well as their previous addresses.
As for using a VPN, like many will suggest, the only thing that would do is prevent someone from obtaining your IP address. A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a service that creates an encrypted tunnel of sorts between your home computer and a server somewhere else.
Whenever you access a website or service while connected to a VPN your home internet (or phone, or business) IP address is hidden. Instead, people on the other end se an IP Address assigned by the VPN provider which is often shared by hundreds or more users. While many VPN providers, advertise they don’t track what you do online, this method of obfuscation is most useful when trying to keep your internet provider or other services from tracking what you do online, or serving you targeted ads. It can also provide extra security for transmitting banking information and passwords, assuming you are using a known VPN service, that doesn’t trigger a fraud alert when you try to login to your bank account from an out of state, or even out of country IP address.
When it comes to what information can be found via your IP Address itself; police dramas often show someone being tracked to a residential or business address using an IP address, the truth is that this is not actually as reliable as most people thing. IP addresses for most modern broadband users only give general information on a town or region where one lives. To get granular details like home address. you would need access to private ISP databases or know how to “social engineer” the information from them,.
Social Engineering is a method of gaining information by using lies and other tactics, such as pretending to be a law enforcement officer and asking where that IP address was assigned at any given time. Most residential IP addresses change periodically (called Dynamic vis Static) even if they can stay the same for extended periods.
How Do I Protect My Kids?
As for protections, the number one thing I can recommend is using a mailbox service, such as the UPS Store, or a USPS P.O. Box for any online giveaways, and online orders. When ordering from Amazon you can choose to use a package delivery locker like the ones located at many 7-Eleven and Quick Check locations.
Even more importantly, talk with your children, know what they are doing online, and let them know, that whatever happens, they can come to you, and you will work with them to resolve the issue.
Note: Edited 9/6/2022 8:13PM – Edited Dolphin Ct to Dolphin Circle, Edited Date of September 9th to the correct September 6th.