Swatting Attacks Target Facebook and Other Tech Execs

The New York Times probes a rash of swatting attacks targeting industry leaders and their families, while the police struggle to find a solution.

“Over the first week of November, the police in San Francisco and New York responded to a series of telephone calls claiming that hostages were being held in the homes of Adam Mosseri, a senior Facebook executive.

The calls appeared to be coming from inside the homes. Officers arrived in force and barricaded the streets outside. Twice. But after tense, hourslong standoffs, they realized the calls were hoaxes. There were no hostages, and no one in the homes had called the police.”

Move over, Internal Revenue Service. Criminals now prefer the Social Security Administration as their cover agency when they try to swindle Americans over the phone.

The I.R.S. has long been a popular choice for telephone scammers, who call pretending to be federal tax representatives to extract money, personal information or both from consumers.

But federal authorities say they have seen fraudulent calls from Social Security Administration impostors “skyrocket” over the past year, overtaking the fake I.R.S. calls…


Anthony Marino set his mobile phone to “Do Not Disturb” before going to bed, but he sensed it flicker in the dark. The next morning, he saw he had missed roughly 30 calls: at 4:15 a.m., 4:34, 4:45, 5:08 and 5:12, and for two hours after that. Most appeared as “Lithuania” on his caller ID, although they could have come from anywhere.

“I hate to say it, but I don’t pick up the phone anymore, which is crazy,” said Mr. Marino, 37, a real estate agent in Brooklyn. “I have missed calls from attorneys and other agents I am doing deals with.”

The seemingly endless stream of robocalls reached a new monthly high of 5.23 billion nationwide in March, according to the call-blocking service YouMail. Some were spammy pitches for unwanted vehicle warranties or debt-relief services. Nearly half were straight-up scams. And there was often one common thread: They frequently came from somewhere other than they said they did…


The robocalls come when you are driving and they bother you at night. It doesn’t matter if you’re in bed or in a meeting.

Here’s the worst news: There is really no way for you to stop them.

I know this because for the past few years, I have been bombarded with robocalls alerting me that I owe student loans, or that I won a free vacation, or that I am being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

Like many people, I have tried the available solutions. I added my cellphone number to the Do Not Call Registry and installed apps that purport to block spam calls. Yet many of those calls still came through…


September 1, 2018

Racist robocalls targeting Andrew Gillum, the first black nominee for Florida governor from a major party, have been placed to residents from an out-of-state white supremacist entity.

Mr. Gillum, 39, the Tallahassee mayor and a progressive candidate who won an upset victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, will face Representative Ron DeSantis, 39, a Republican who embraced the style and policies of President Trump, in the November election…

July 23, 2018

With stiff sentences for 21 conspirators last week in the United States and a round of indictments in India, the Justice Department says it has broken up what appeared to be the nation’s first large-scale, multinational telephone fraud operation.

Over four years, more than 15,000 victims in the United States lost “hundreds of millions” of dollars to the sophisticated scam, and more than 50,000 individuals had their personal information misused, the department said Friday. The money was routed through call centers in India back to the ringleaders in eight states…

May 6, 2018

It’s not just you.

Those pesky robocalls — at best annoying disturbances and at worst costly financial scams — are getting worse.

In an age when cellphones have become extensions of our bodies, robocallers now follow people wherever they go, disrupting business meetings, church services and bedtime stories with their children.

Though automated calls have long plagued consumers, the volume has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April, according to YouMail, which collects and analyzes calls through its robocall blocking service. That’s an increase of almost 900 million a month compared with a year ago…

May 11, 2017

An unfamiliar number appears on your cellphone. It’s from your area code, so you answer it, thinking it might be important.

There is an unnatural pause after you say hello, and what follows is a recording telling you how you can reduce your credit card interest rates or electric bill or prescription drug costs or any of a number of other sales pitches…

January 30, 2017

No, no one has ever gone to prison for violating the National Do Not Call Registry, and it’s unlikely anyone ever will. That’s because the two federal agencies that oversee the list largely hand out civil, not criminal, penalties…

January 6, 2017

Mel Craig’s 90-year-old father has been tormented over the past year by swindlers calling him at home, threatening him if he did not send them more money…