Elizabeth Vargas: Ring swatting not a ‘victimless crime’

Crime

(NewsNation) — Two men were recently accused of carrying out a ‘swatting spree’ across the country in the span of one week using Ring doorbell cameras.

Swatting, according to the FBI, involves calling 911 on a residence and faking a report that draws a large response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.

A federal indictment said in November 2020 that Kya Christian Nelson, 21, of Racine, Wisconsin, and James Thomas Andrew McCarty, 20, of Charlotte, North Carolina, allegedly “gained access” to several home security door cameras sold by Ring LLC by obtaining login information from Yahoo email accounts. The pair allegedly then called 911 to people’s addresses with fake emergencies, then livestreamed the audio and video on social media.

A SWAT team responding to a report of a homicide or rigged explosives in the house are going to come at full force, NewsNation contributor Elizabeth Vargas, host of “iCrime,” said. If the owner of the residence happened to be at home at that point, she said, they could be viewed with great suspicion — and things could get dangerous.

“You’re talking officers with guns drawn arriving to the scene of a potential very, very serious — the most serious you can think of — crime,” she said. “This is not a victimless crime. This is not just some prank. This is serious stuff.”

Not only does ‘swatting’ waste police resources at a time when officers are feeling overwhelmed by the crime rates in some cities, Vargas said, it also puts civilians at risk.

“They’re very lucky, these two young men who have been accused of this crime, that something worse hasn’t happened,” Vargas said.

Smart home device hacking has become such an issue in recent years that the FBI in 2020 put out an alert warning users to have “complex, unique passwords” and two-factor authentication to help protect themselves.

“This is something that’s on the rise,” Vargas said. “More and more people have these Ring cameras.”

NewsNation local affiliate WHNT contributed to this report.

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