Anonymous pranks have been around as long as people have had telephones in their homes. With the widespread use of computers and social media, pranks have become more sophisticated and difficult for law enforcement to track and control. Connecticut residents should understand that some phone and internet pranks are no joke. They can, in fact, result in serious criminal charges.

According to the Verge, swatting is a prank that involves callers or online users falsely reporting a crime to law enforcement. This usually results in armed officers or SWAT teams arriving at an innocent person’s residence. In 2015, a Connecticut man was sentenced to a year in prison for participating in numerous swatting hoaxes, including a bomb threat.

Usually, those who participate in swatting believe they are committing a harmless joke. However, as a well-publicized incident showed, swatting can have serious repercussions. CNN reported on the 2017 swatting incident gone wrong, during which armed law enforcement arrived at a home, having been told that the resident had killed several family members and was holding the rest of his family at gunpoint. When the unsuspecting man answered his door, officers mistook his movements as reaching for a gun, and he was shot and killed. Three of the men involved in the swatting prank received federal charges, and the man who made the false call was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

It can be easy for people online to not realize their actions may have serious consequences, especially if they are young and inexperienced. Anyone who is charged with a crime has the right to fair treatment during the legal process.