What You Should Know About Hoax Distress Calls

  1. It is a federal felony to make a false distress call to the Coast Guard. Individuals who knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause a response where no assistance is needed make hoax calls. The Coast Guard cannot tolerate such acts and will do everything it can to ensure hoaxers are held accountable for their actions, including investigation and subsequent prosecution by the U. S. Attorney’s office.
  2. Hoax calls put the lives of boaters and rescuers at risk. While launching on a false search and rescue (SAR) case, our resources may not be available to save someone who is really in danger. Needlessly, potential rescuers may be put in harm’s way because a hoax caller’s actions.
  3. Hoax calls cost the taxpayers money. It costs approximately $400 per hour to operate a standard rescue boat, while a helicopter or cutter may cost from $1,500 to $3,000 per hour.
  4. If you commit a hoax, the Coast Guard will work with other federal and local government agencies to catch you — and you’ll pay a hefty price. This act is not treated as a harmless prank! The maximum penalty for making a false distress call is 6 years imprisonment, total restitution of expenses caused by the call in addition to a $250,000 fine.
  5. Firing off flares in a non-distress situation is the same as pulling a fire alarm or making a hoax call. These devices are meant to signal for assistance not for amusement.
  6. Parents can and will be held responsible for the actions of their minor children.
  7. The Coast Guard needs the assistance of the public to reduce hoax calls. This can be done by:Removing radios or locking them up when not in use,
    Teach children that unauthorized use puts people in danger,
    Report suspect hoaxers; U.S. Coast Guard Tipline 1-800-264-5980
  8. The Coast Guard is modernizing its National Distress and Response System. The state-of-the-art equipment we are acquiring helps locate the source and location of the actual origin of the call.
  9. The perpetrator of hoaxes or false alarms is fleecing America and we are working with the FCC and DOJ to prosecute and recover costs for the federal government on behalf of all taxpayers. Together, we will make this information campaign work to show the diligence with which we undertake the SAR mission and the frustration of doing our job while faced with hoaxes.
  10. The Coast Guard receives approximately 600-700 hoaxes/suspected hoaxes each year.

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