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Campaign Warns Against Fake Threats Made Online Or Through Social Media

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Law enforcement officials say they’ve seen rising numbers of fake bomb or shooting threats made against schools, including those in Oregon. The FBI says it’s launched a new campaign tackling hoax threats against schools.

Before the internet and social media, threats were often called in or mailed. But with the proliferation of email, texts, and apps like SnapChat, people can make multiple threats in a fraction of the time, to a wider audience.

Beth Anne Steele of the Portland FBI says its #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign warns that threats made in just seconds can have lifetime repercussions. They’ve sent materials to schools across Oregon.

“Including some in the Eugene-Springfield area, for them to distribute to their students as they see fit,” says Steele. She says while fake threats are preferred to real ones, they still cause distress and waste the resources of responding police and investigators.

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And while some perpetrators post under aliases or through multiple firewalls, investigators are still often able to track where a threat originated from.

“In most cases, we can track that digital record, those cookie crumbs, back to people who commit hoax threats,” Steele tells KLCC. “Those folks can face some serious federal charges including up to five years in federal prison.” 

Earlier this year, Springfield Police arrested a high school freshman for a Snapchat message he sent to another student, claiming to be a shooter headed to her campus.

Tips on false or potential threats can be made to the FBI or through SafeOregon.com. 

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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