The recent issuing of arrest warrants for a California man in connection with a fraudulent call to 911 that prompted a large police presence in southwest Calgary was likely the first encounter with the term ‘swatting’ for many Calgarians but, for online gamers, the criminal prank calls are well-known.

Swatting is the act of making a fake emergency call in an attempt to get officer to respond to someone’s address.

On the evening of December 22, officers were deployed to an apartment building in the community of Bankview after someone called 911 claiming that they had shot their father and taken members of their family hostage. The call was determined to be hoax and investigators determined the caller was likely targeting someone inside the building whom he had been in contact with online.

On January 9, arrest warrants were issued for 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles, California who had previously been charged in connection with a suspected swatting incident on December 28 where a member of the Wichita Police Department fatally shot an innocent man.

According to experts on technology, swatters may choose their victims at random or the attack may be in response to what the offender believes to be an online slight.

“People get into a game and maybe they make a bet on the side, or something, and then they get into a fight,” explained Tom Keenan, a University of Calgary professor with expertise on the social implications of technology and cybersecurity. “All of a sudden there’s a SWAT team at the door.”

Keenan says females who have ignored online advances or comments have also been the recipients of swatting attacks.

Barriss, the suspect in the Calgary and Kansas swatting attacks, has been accused of being a swatter for hire who was paid for his attacks.

In order to minimize the risk of being targeted by a swatter, experts recommend limiting the personal information you share online including removing photographs or videos that may provide clues to your location.

With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg