Vancouver home swarmed by police after fake 911 call - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Vancouver home swarmed by police after online hacker makes fake 911 call

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Police swarmed a Vancouver home after getting a 911 call claiming a woman was dead, her son was being held at gunpoint and their house was on fire.

It turned out to be a prank set up by a stranger through a computer, according to police.

Police tell FOX 12 this was a "swatting hoax," and they believe someone accessed the family's information online and tricked 911 into sending police to a fake emergency.

The Swank family says they were watching TV Sunday and were none the wiser to what was happening right outside of their front door.

"We had no idea what was going on, but there were cops surrounding the entire neighborhood," said Kristi Swank.

Police say through an online relay service, which is often used by people with hearing or speech impairments, someone claiming to be the Swank's 15-year-old son called 911.

The caller claimed that four gunmen were in the home, holding the family hostage, according to police.

"They got ahold of my oldest son's cell, and said, ‘This is the Vancouver Police,' and then they asked him if anyone was distressed, or hurt. My son said no, but then they told him that everyone needed to evacuate the house with their hands up, as soon as possible," said Swank.

The family came out of their home, confused and with their hands in the air. Police quickly realized the family was fine, and the call for help didn't come from the Swanks at all.

"The officer asked my son if he recognized someone's Skype name, and he told him he did. He went onto his Skype account on the computer and saw this whole conversation going on, saying that our house just got swatted," said Swank.

The family tells FOX 12 their teenage son uses Skype to chat with other gamers who play Minecraft, which is something he's done for years. But, police believe this time one of those gamers hacked into their account and made that fake 911 call to police.

"This isn't a joke, this is serious and dangerous, people could have gotten hurt," said Swank. "I think I heard that almost everyone on duty that day was in our neighborhood, what if someone else was really in need of help and they couldn't respond to that call?"

Police say they are still trying to identify the hacker who could face false reporting charges if caught.

In the meantime, the family says they've blocked their son's gaming buddies and are grateful things didn't escalate further.

"It's just unbelievable, I'm still processing the whole thing," said Swank.

Vancouver Police say this is an important lesson to never share home addresses, or information about your family online.

Police say in this case, the caller had enough information about the family and their home to make the call sound like a real threat.

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