FBI launches campaign against hoax threats

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BOSTON (WPRI) — The FBI’s Boston Division said Tuesday the number of online hoax threats against schools, events and other public places have tripled in the last five years.

“Based on our estimates, we’re receiving reports of at least two threats a day that turn out to be hoaxes,” Harold Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, said in a news release. The Boston Division covers Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

The figures were part of new public awareness campaign the Boston Division launched Tuesday, called “Think Before You Post.” It’s aimed at reminding people that making false threats online is a crime.

“You might be angry, you may be joking, or looking for a way to be heard, or seek revenge, but you need to stop and think before you post because making any threat, even a hoax, has consequences,” Shaw said. “It drains critical law enforcement resources, diverts first responders away from actual emergencies, and is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers.”

Shaw also noted that the FBI and local police must follow through on any threat or tip that they receive. 

“There is no alternative – there is too much at stake – and we’re always concerned that the subject behind the threat intends to follow through with their actions,” he said.

Making false threats online could lead to federal charges, each of which could carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to the FBI.

The FBI said people should still immediately contact them or their local police about any threat they see or receive. However, they also urge people not to share or forward the threat online until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate.

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