The malicious US trend of "swatting" has made it to New Zealand.
This morning, Mauricio Freitas - the Wellington-based founder of the Geekzone - had two police officers knock on his door around 9.35am.
"They asked me if I was Mauricio and that they were visiting to check because someone had given an anonymous tip that I had/made IEDs [improvised explosive devices] at home," he told the Herald.
Freitas immediately suspected he had been "swatted" by a disgruntled Geekzone member, who had recently been banned from the forum after breaking its content policies.
The swat jape began in the US a couple of years ago. It involves a disgruntled geek or gamer making a false accusation that whomever they are feuding with has illegal weapons - or some other allegation that will encourage a police Swat (special weapons and tactics) team to raid their home.
Wired reported that the craze has turned deadly on several occasions, including LA-based gamer Tyler Bariss, peeved over a Call of Duty dispute, attempted to send the police to another player's door in Wichita, Kansas. Instead, he sent them to the home of total stranger Andrew Finch, who was fatally shot in the confusion.
Thankfully, there was no such drama in Freitas' case. The two cops arrived in regular uniform and waited politely on the doorstep for several minutes while the Geekzone founder finished his shower (all of the action, such as was, was captured on four Ring cameras that surround the Geekzone head's porch).
One of the cops was familiar with the swatting trend, and after Freitas filled them in about his disgruntled Geekzone member theory, the pair left satisfied, without requesting to search his Johnsonville property.
"I suspect they knew it was bullshit as I doubt they would visit any house suspect of having IEDs as just a pair. They probably had intelligence - and it's not hard to find me on the internet, right - but had to check," Freitas told the Herald.
"Nevertheless, I would not be surprised if there were another couple of cars parked a block away around the area."
A police spokeswoman told the Herald, "Police can confirm they went to a Wellington address this morning after receiving an anonymous report that an explosive device was present.
"Police spoke with an occupant and it was quickly determined that the report was not valid."
Penalty for false accusations
Asked about the penalty for making a false allegation, the police spokeswoman pointed to Section 24 of the Summary Offences Act (1981), which allows for a prison term of up to three months or a fine of up to $2000 for someone who wastes police time with what they know to be a groundless accusation.
International man of misto
It would not have been hard for the police to run a background check on Freitas.
The affable Brazilian has lead a very public life since arriving in Wellington in 1997. He founded Geekzone - which now has some 100,000 registered members - in 2003 and has had a series of high-profile roles with tech companies like Unisys, Snapper and Intergen. He regularly hosts pizza evenings for Geekzone members. His Instagram account records that he does make a lot things, but his efforts usually involve a network server or the assembly of some of various South American BBQ dishes.
Freitas said the police were very professional.
He told his followers on Twitter, "Some very sad people. @nzpolice had to check it out though so just doing their job."
Freitas' immediate plan was to have another espresso.