At least three members of Congress targeted in ‘swatting’ incidents

At least three members of Congress reported “swatting” incidents over the past week, with New York Republican Brandon Williams being the latest to reveal that he was subject to an act of criminal harassment that generally involves prank-calling 911 to get a heavily-armed Swat team to show up at the target’s home.

Related: Maine secretary of state targeted in ‘swatting’ call after removing Trump from ballot

Williams, who has represented Central New York since 2023, said police from Auburn, New York, had come to his home on Christmas Day after receiving a call claiming there was a crisis at his home.

Williams said the police, recognizing his address, called in advance to alert him but only after the swatting incident had disrupted his family holiday. Williams said he suspected his pro-Israel positions were behind the prank since pro-Hamas signs had been left at his home.

The congressman later told CBS News that he told his family to assemble in the kitchen and to keep their hands visible when police arrived. He said he suspects public officials are being increasingly targeted, including by agitators seek to disrupt the lives of elected officials.

“There are so many things going on in our society that are disrupting our systems,” Williams told the outlet. “Swatters are disrupting police, getting them out on these fake calls. This could be targeted at judges, state officials and law enforcement too.”

“Swatting” became a holiday feature for several politicians from both parties at the end of 2023.

Florida Republican senator Rick Scott said on Thursday that he had also been the target of a hoax call.

“Last night, while at dinner with my wife, cowards ‘swatted’ my home in Naples. These criminals wasted the time & resources of our law enforcement in a sick attempt to terrorize my family,” Scott said in a social media post.

A spokesman for the Naples police department told CBS News that the person who made the call told dispatchers that a man had “shot his wife with an AR-15 three times while she was sleeping.”

Police said that within 15 minutes they’d confirmed the report was false.

“This is very much an active and ongoing investigation,” the department added.

In a third incident, Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene said that she, too, had been swatted. In a social media post on Christmas Day, Greene said: “I was just swatted. This is like the 8th time. On Christmas with my family here.”

She later claimed that both of her daughters’ homes were targeted.

“Both my [daughters’] houses just got swatted today. Big thanks to the police who responded! We appreciate you and support you! Whoever is doing this, you are going to get caught and it won’t be funny to you anymore,” she wrote on X, tagging the FBI.

The Maine secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, who last week ruled that Donald Trump was ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 primary ballot after his allegedly insurrectionist actions of Jan. 6 2021, was the target of a “swatting call” on Friday night, according to state police.

Police said they’d received a call at 8.15pm from an unknown male, saying that he had broken in to her home in Manchester, Maine. Police responded but found no one inside the home, according to WMTV.

Bellows later posted on Facebook that she and her husband were not home “when threats escalated, and our home address was posted online”.

“This behavior is unacceptable,” she added. “The non-stop threatening communications the people who work for me endured all day yesterday is unacceptable. It’s designed to scare not only me but also others into silence, to send a message.”

In an FBI alert about swatting in 2022, the agency warned that “individuals who engage in this activity use technology, such as caller ID spoofing, social engineering, TTY and prank calls to make it appear that the emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone.”

The law enforcement agency added that patterns of swatting had evolved.

“Traditionally, law enforcement has seen swatters directing their actions toward individuals and residences. Increasingly, the FBI sees swatters targeting public places such as airports, schools and businesses. Another recent trend is so-called celebrity swatting, where the targeted victims are well-known personalities.”

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