Swatting: Pranking gone hi-tech

Published: Mar 04 2012 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 05 2012 11:35:11 PM EST

It's prank calling gone hi-tech, with potentially dangerous results. Computer hackers are sending the SWAT team to innocent people's homes. A Northampton County family says it happened to them three times.

It's called "swatting," and if you or your kids own a video game system, it could easily happen to you too.

What started out as a video game ended up with the State Police team surrounding Tyler Yagerhofer's East Allen Township home last August.

"There's a state trooper standing in my face, with a gun, like, two feet away from me, yelling at me, 'Get out of the house!'", remembered Tyler's mother, Lisa.

Tyler added: "There was a police officer at the door with a gun pointed right in her face."

"There was about 15 of them with lights, sirens," said Lisa. "It looked like a drug raid."

A 911 caller pretending to be Tyler told dispatchers a harrowing tale:

"Please help. My dad just killed my four year-old sister. He slit her throat. She's bleeding to death," said the 911 transcript. "Please hurry. He's breaking down my door. He's going to kill me."
But it was all a hoax. Authorities believe it was perpetrated by a teenager Tyler was playing a video game with online.

"He had beaten him in a game, and he didn't like that," said Tyler's mother.

The FBI says "Swatting" is where someone obtains your personal information and makes a fake 911 call.

"It's not very hard to find out nearly whatever you might want about someone," said internet security expert Matthew Wilson, with Berks County-based Core BTS.

According to Wilson, hackers can use seemingly innocent clues your kids provide to get your information in minutes.

"[They use] sites that private investigators might use to trace someone," he said, "sites that the banking industry might use to a background check and credit check on folks."

Tyler's mom fought back though, poring through hours of Internet message board posts until she found who she thinks is responsible. State Police did not return calls about the investigation.

The FBI says "swatting" is a growing phenomenon nationally, and estimates that each incident costs taxpayers an average of $10,000.