The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office responded about 10:18 p.m. Tuesday January 23, 2018 to the block of 2800 North Magellan Drive after a man called 9-1-1 and said he was holding three people hostage with a gun.
The male offender provided an address and a name, and demanded a ransom. The offender said if he didn’t get his money, he would start shooting people, and then hung up the phone.
McHenry Sheriff’s office determined the call was a hoax – but assigned 15 deputies and Johnsburg police officers to the scene for two hours to confirm that the incident was a hoax.
Deputies and police officers eventually made contact, at a different address, with a juvenile whose name had been shared by the person who made the fake call.
Authorities determined he had not made the call to police. Deputies made contact with the residents of the house on North Magellan Drive and learned everyone was safe.
The McHenry County sheriff’s office is investigating the incident as a “swatting” incident.
Swatting occurs when an offender uses technology known as “caller ID spoofing” to make a false 9-1-1 call appear to come from a legitimate address — an address that is another location than the actual caller’s location. Using the false location on the 9-1-1 caller ID, the offender usually fabricates a scenario that matches that false location, which causes police to respond to the location, initially believing there is an emergency at the false location. Innocent victims find themselves surrounded by a police response, but the potential for danger occurs before police realize a false Swatting incident has occurred.
Caller ID spoofing can involve any victim. Swatting is a specific form of Caller ID Spoofing that involves a 9-1-1 center or police agency as the victim. Spoofing (without Swatting) is often done by illegal telemarketers or collection agencies to generate local phone numbers similar to the victim’s own area code and prefix appear on the victim’s caller ID. Spoofing is designed to get people to answer calls that would otherwise NOT be answered from the real phone source that is located in another area code, such as New Jersey or New York. In other words, spoofers make their phone number appear as though it is from your neighborhood, instead of the actual out-of-state number, which if more likely to be ignored. In the case of Swatting, the caller ID spoofing victim is the police or 9-1-1 dispatch center.
In recent Swatting incidents offenders have made false reports such as bomb threats, and killing or hostage situations. Swatting is against the law and can put civilians and emergency crews in danger, according to the release from McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation of Tuesday’s incident is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office at 815-338-2144, McHenry County Crime Stoppers at 800-762-STOP (800-762-7867), or email a tip to [email protected].
Unfortunately, there are phone-spoofing websites and apps available on mobile phones — even available on the Apple’s App Store and Google play — that allow Caller ID spoofing. Caller ID spoofing is generally legal in the United States, unless done “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value”.
It is unknown whether the spoofing websites and apps prevent calls to 9-1-1 centers. There are also some other hardware and software methods (outside of spoofing websites and apps) that can be used to falsify caller ID.
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