Woodbury family victim of swatting hoax – a growing trend around the US

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An apparent "swatting" hoax brought dozens of police officers in tactical gear to a residential street in Woodbury Monday night.

Officials had gotten a report that a boy had shot his father and tied up his sister, KSTP reports. But when officers went to the Pelto Path home around 7:20 p.m. the family inside was safe – and had no knowledge of the original 911 call, the Pioneer Press reports.

Police say this was an incident of "swatting" – a prank that involves someone making a false report to officials in an attempt to get a SWAT team to respond to an unsuspecting – and innocent – target.

"This was a very scary situation for the family and the neighborhood around the home," Woodbury police spokeswoman Michelle Okada told the Pioneer Press. "It certainly is a misuse of public resources, it also creates potential risk for everyone involved."

Making a swatting call could result in charges in Minnesota if the caller is caught, and people in other states have been sentenced to federal prison for such pranks, the FBI said.

But these increased punishments haven't deterred people from trying. Swatting has grown in popularity since the FBI first reported on the "new phenomenon of swatting" back in 2008, noting there were over 100 victims in the U.S. between 2002 and 2006, which cost police departments up to $250,000.

Officials estimate at least 400 "swattings" happen every year, but that number could be higher because they often aren't reported to prevent copycats, AFP reported.

Swatting is especially popular in the online gaming community, AFP noted, where swatters target online rivals who are live-streaming a game – when police arrive, people can watch the scenario play out live.

That's what is believed to have happened to an Air Force veteran and gamer in St. Cloud in February when armed officers stormed into his house. The incident was streamed to thousands of other gamers.

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