Fake call sends officers to Appleton home

Thumbnail for Appleton "swatting" incident

APPLETON - A fake 911 turned into a scary night for one Appleton couple.

Police say the couple was the victim of a so-called "swatting" incident. That's when someone makes a false police report, drawing officers to a location under a made-up scenario.

Wednesday evening, a woman called Appleton police, saying her husband was attacking her and her children with a knife. Officers went to the house immediately.

"I guarantee you that the resident at that house was scared to death, and rightfully so, we had officers with guns drawn, believing the worst,' said Sgt. Dave Lund of the Appleton Police Dept.

Officers found a man inside the house.

"He was temporarily detained, he was placed in handcuffs - but within minutes we determined there was nothing going on, nobody hurt. He was un-handcuffed," Lund explained.

The man and a woman in the home explained they did not call police. That's when officers realized they were victims of a "swatting" incident.

"We're going to take these seriously. We don't have an option to not take these seriously," said Lund.

And it all apparently started with another phony call. The couple told police that before officers arrived, a woman called the house claiming to be with the IRS, demanding money. After the couple questioned the caller, the woman apparently dialed the police, making up the domestic violence story.

"In most cases, you hang up, nothing happens," Lund said.

The Better Business Bureau told FOX 11 the IRS would never call you like that.

"If there was a problem with your tax return the first thing they would do is send you a letter. They just don't operate that way, they wouldn't demand payment immediately," explained Susan Bach, regional director of the Northeast Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

Here are the facts on what the Better Business Bureau says is a very common issue:

-The IRS has received 90,000 reports of similar calls.

-Criminals have made about $5 million by tricking people into paying.

If it happens to you, the BBB says just hang up.

"Hang up and if you do think there is a problem with your tax return, find a number independently and contact the IRS directly," Bach told us.

Police said the phony caller was likely in a foreign country. They explained the calls are often patched through other companies and appear on caller ID to be local.