Imagine sitting in your living room, when all of a sudden, your home is surrounded by SWAT.
You didn't call them, but a scammer did. That's the reality of a new 911 swatting scam that law enforcement is warning people about.
"It's very dangerous all the way around. To have a scammer take it to this level. Fortunately, [it's] very unusual," said Dwight D'Evelyn with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
YCSO recently worked such a case, but similar incidents are happening around the country.
In the recent YCSO case, a male called 911 reporting robbers inside a house wearing masks and carrying bats.
"Overall, it sounded very realistic. You could tell the caller had some sort of accent. His phrasing was a little different, as if he was from a foreign country and that's what we're assuming, although we don't know for sure," said D'Evelyn.
Within minutes, several deputies arrived. Fortunately, they figured out quickly that the homeowner wasn't in trouble, and a scammer had taken advantage of her.
After investigating, deputies learned the homeowner had recently received several calls from a scammer trying to get her to buy iTunes cards. She refused, became upset with the suspect and got into some sort of argument.
Deputies determined this angered the suspect, who then decided to get back at her by calling in a fake robbery at her home.
"The frustrating part for us is we'd love to be able to track this person down and arrest them, but the technology is such, that these scammers can call 'spoof' phone numbers and create the victim's phone number as part of the call," said D'Evelyn.
In other words, to dispatch, it appears the call is coming from the homeowner's address, and it is very difficult to track down the real number.
Not only do such incidents waste precious time and money of first responders, but they can be dangerous as well.
"It's scary because it puts our officers at risk, because we're responding in a highly active manner -- emergency lights, siren. We believe there are weapons involved. It's like an active shooter situation," said D'Evelyn.
So what should you do?
Either hang up, or better yet don't answer unknown phone calls. Most importantly, whatever you do, don't engage with the callers.
"The best thing to do is just hang up. Do not confront them. There's nothing to be gained," said D'Evelyn.
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