Twitter allegedly used by teen to prompt fake 911 'swatting' calls

A 16-year-old Ottawa boy facing 60 criminal charges allegedly used his Twitter account to solicit requests on where to call in fake emergencies, CBC News has learned.

Phony bomb threats called in at schools in Calgary and Milton, Ont.

Alleged 'swatter' used Twitter

10 years ago
Duration 3:06
A 16-year-old Ottawa boy accused of making up fake emergencies used Twitter to solicit targets.

A 16-year-old Ottawa boy facing 60 criminal charges allegedly used his Twitter account to solicit requests on where to call in fake emergencies, in a practice known as "swatting," CBC News has learned.

On Friday, police charged the teen after at least 30 fake emergencies were called in to police forces across North America, sometimes requiring a SWAT team response.

The allegations include fake bomb threats at schools in Calgary and Milton, Ont., in April.

So-called swatting involves making 911 calls to get revenge on people or organizations, or to prank them, with the aim of getting a large emergency response.

The Ottawa teen allegedly solicited requests using a Twitter account — @ProbablyOnion2.

Ottawa police arrested a 16-year-old boy on Thursday near his Barrhaven home.
"Put in your swat requests now," one post read last Wednesday.

The account holder taunted police online and boasted he was making money from the hoaxes by posting a photo of a bank account that paid out in bitcoin.

The account holder also allegedly targeted Washington, D.C.-based cybercrime reporter Brian Krebs in April with a fake hostage call.

Krebs said the perpetrators of these pranks don't grasp the implications of their actions. 

"[They]  don't have a sense of the value of anything, these individuals have no parental supervision... [they are] able to do what they want on the internet," he said. 

Swatting puts people at risk, police say

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Rick Baldwin-Ooms said the practice of swatting puts people at risk because it takes police and emergency responders away from real emergencies.

The boy was arrested near his home in west Ottawa on Thursday afternoon after a two-month investigation into fake emergency calls as far as California and Calgary, and as close as Montreal, Laval and Toronto, police said. None of the incidents police are so far aware of took place in Ottawa.

People living in Barrhaven said they saw a teen walking down the street with his parents when undercover police officers jumped out of a car and brought him to the ground just steps from his home.

The boy's home was searched, and officers seized data transmission devices and communications equipment, as well as multiple firearms and ammunition.

Police said they seized the weapons from the home in the interest of public safety.

The charges against the boy include:

  • Public mischief.
  • Mischief to property.
  • Uttering death threats.
  • Conveying false information with intent to alarm.

An online hacker who identified the accused to law enforcement officials in both the United States and Canada told CBC News the accused had been operating for more than seven months and was using more than a dozen aliases.

Police said Monday that more charges are pending.

The boy cannot be identified due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

He is scheduled to return to court on May 27.