Ashton Kutcher latest celeb to be victim of "swatting"

Ashton Kutcher of the television show "Two And A Half Men" speaks during the CBS portion of the 2012 Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on Jan. 11, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

(CBS News) Ashton Kutcher is known for staging televised pranks on famous friends. On Wednesday, he was the one who got "Punk'd" when a phony call was made to police -- but no one was laughing.

Police say it's a growing problem, putting officers and others at risk.

It was a tense morning on Wednesday at Kutcher's Hollywood Hills home. Los Angeles police responded to a report of shots fired and a possible hostage situation. At first, the message appeared to come from a woman hiding inside the house.

Neighbor Ed Vallejo told CBS News at the time, "It looks like they called the police, told them there was a shooting inside, somebody was down."

But in true Hollywood style, it was not what it seemed. Los Angeles Police Officer Cleon Joseph said of the incident, "Officers did their due diligence and pulled everyone out of the house, interviewed and questioned, and found out it was a hoax."

The FBI calls it "swatting," a nationwide trend in which someone calls police, reports a false emergency, and brings out law enforcement, often including a SWAT team. It has happened to computer gamers and conservative bloggers.

Even singer Miley Cyrus was a victim. Someone called the police to her home in August with a 911 call reporting shots fired. It was yet another hoax, but one with serious consequences. If caught, perpetrators face a $10,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

Officer Joseph said, "Officers put their lives on the line every day and every time they get a call, you know, they're thinking, not just of the people's safety around them, but them and going home to their families."

Kutcher was not home Wednesday morning, but later tweeted from the set of his sitcom, saying, "Safe and sound at 'Two and a Half Men,' don't miss tomorrow night 8:30."

It might only have been a hoax, but that's apparently no reason to pass up an opportunity for a little self-promotion.