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This week: building a digital defense against hoax threats with the #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign.

Your kids are headed back to school, and many of them are carrying a phone in their pocket when they do. That device – along with the laptops, tablets and gaming systems so many have – can become an integral part of who they are. Some students are so used to sharing every thought online that sometimes they forget that what they do in the virtual world can have real-world consequences.

Imagine a student with a grievance. Maybe she’s mad at a classmate. Maybe he didn’t study for a test and thinks that causing a disruption at the school will get him out of taking it. It can be easy to say things you don’t really mean – or post things that you don’t really intend to follow through on.

This kind of online behavior can and does happen all the time – but in the aftermath of mass casualty attacks, we often see an increase in hoax threats made to schools or other public places. The FBI takes these threats very seriously whether they come in the form of text messages, social media posts or emails. Law enforcement – whether the FBI or our local and state partners – will respond to each threat to determine which are real and which are hoaxes.

The FBI’s #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign is designed to help schools and parents educate students before they make a poor choice that could impact them for years to come. Please share with your kids and those in your community that making a threat is a federal crime. Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges.

In addition to the individual consequences a person may face, these threats have a serious impact on our community. They divert law enforcement resources from investigating other crimes, and they cost taxpayers a lot of money. For those targeted in a threat – the emotional distress can be severe.

So remember:

Don’t ever post or send any hoax threats online.

If you are the target of an online threat, call your local law enforcement immediately.

If you see a threat of violence posted online, contact local law enforcement or your local FBI office. You can also submit information online to the FBI at https://tips.fbi.gov

Don’t share or forward a threat until law enforcement has a chance to investigate – this can spread misinformation and cause panic.

Remember – a hoax threat is no joke. #ThinkBeforeYouPost.

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