This week: building a digital defense against hoax threats.
Both schools and police agencies throughout Oregon and across the country are trying to manage the increasing number of threats that get shared, called in or posted online each day. Once school officials and officers learn of these threats, it can take quite a bit of money and time to identify the sender, investigate the situation and mitigate any concerns. Communities can’t ignore the threats, meaning that in the end your kids end up losing time in the classroom, and already thin budgets face extra stress from the expense.
The posted warnings often include vows of potential mass shootings, bombings, or other violent attacks. Sometimes the threats are real – but many times, students or bystanders are instigating a particular incident for other reasons. Perhaps they feel they have suffered an injustice. Or they want attention. Or they just get a thrill out of the fear that such threats create.
The FBI has launched a public awareness campaign called #ThinkBeforeYouPost to help address this growing problem. The goal is to educate those who are considering posting hoax threats as to the severe consequences they could face. When an investigation concludes that there was a false or hoax threat made to a school or other public place, the person posting the threat could face up to five years in federal prison. State charges are also possible.
Hoax posters may think that they can make their threats anonymously via social media, gaming sites or online forums. They should know that the FBI and its law enforcement partners follow up on every tip received from the public, and we analyze and investigate all threats to determine both their origin and their credibility. Federal, state and local law enforcement work together, using a full range of tools to mitigate those threats. Early intervention can prevent a situation from escalating – allowing law enforcement to identify, assess and manage the threat.
In many cases, it is difficult to know immediately whether a threat is real or a hoax. We ask that the public continue to contact law enforcement to report any potential threats or suspicious activity. If there is an immediate risk to you or others, call 911. In Oregon, many schools also participate in the Safe Oregon program which allows students to report suspected threats privately through email, a mobile app, phone calls, texts and online web portals. Other options include contacting your local police department, submitting a written tip to the FBI at tips.FBI.gov or calling your local FBI office. In Oregon, the FBI can be reached 24 hours a day at (503) 224-4181.
Remember – hoax threats are not a joke, so #ThinkBeforeYouPost.