SWAT outside? It could be a new scam

How to avoid being a victim of a 911 revenge scam.

A new crime wave is sweeping the country: and it's called 911 swatting.

MATTHEWS, N.C. -- We've all gotten phone calls from sales people, perhaps you've even become angry and engaged with them on the phone.

Well, law enforcement now sending out a message saying that is probably the worst thing you could do.

“Just hang up the phone. It's just that simple,” said Tim Aycock with the Matthews Police Department.

Aycock says new crime wave is sweeping the country and he's worried it could happen here.

'911 Swatting' explained

“It's where someone will call in a fake call to 911 saying that there is some extenuating circumstance or a possible shooting going on at that scene just to get back at people,” Ayock said.

It sounds farfetched but it's happening across the country.

In one recent case, a male called 911 reporting robbers inside a house wearing masks and carrying bats.

Within minutes, several deputies arrived at the home. 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 Dwight 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.

“It's very disturbing to think about someone doing that,” Aycock said.  “It's just to get a reaction out of someone.  They're just being plain spiteful.”

So the good news here is that this isn't a major widespread problem just yet, but law enforcement in the area, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, say they are aware of it.

The best advice is if you get a call to your cell phone with an unknown number, don't answer it and let it go to voicemail.

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