FBI Miami
Public Affairs Specialist Jim Marshall
(754) 703-2000
January 8, 2020

FBI Reminds Public Hoax Online Threats Have Serious Consequences

MIAMI—As kids go back to school, the FBI wants to remind parents, students and school officials alike that making a threat on social media is not a joke and can have serious consequences for the offender.

Issuing a threat over social media, via text, or through email is a federal crime.

It does not matter if the sender was only kidding about the threat. A thoughtless remark on social media can mean that a young person may start their adult life in prison and forever be labeled a felon.

“Hoax threats disrupt school, waste limited law enforcement resources, and put first responders in unnecessary danger. We also don’t want to see a young person start out adulthood with a felony record over an impulsive social media post,” said David Bowdich, deputy director of the FBI.

The FBI takes each of these threats seriously.

“We investigate and fully analyze each threat to determine its credibility,” said Michael D. Leverock, a Special Agent with FBI Miami. “These online threats have consequences because they can cause severe emotional distress to students, school personnel and parents. It’s a serious issue.”

Social Media Threats

Here are some tips about hoax online threats:

  • Don’t ever post or send any hoax threats online…period.
  • If you are a target of an online threat, alert your local law enforcement immediately.
  • If you see a threat of violence posted on social media, immediately contact local law enforcement or your local FBI office. Members of the public can always submit a tip to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
  • Notify authorities but don’t share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate—this can spread misinformation and cause panic.
  • If you are a parent or family member, know that some young people post these threats online as a cry for attention or as a way to get revenge or exert control. Talk to your child about the proper outlet for their stress or other emotions, and explain the importance of responsible social media use and the consequences of posting hoax threats.

For more information, visit https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/hoax-threats-awareness-100518. This link includes an interview with an individual who made a hoax threat.