Psychology behind hoax bomb threats

Grudge against ex-employers, inability to reach airport on time, and thrill of getting away with a prank are some reasons why citizens make such calls
Last Updated : 04 April 2024, 22:59 IST
Last Updated : 04 April 2024, 22:59 IST

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Last week, an ex-employee of a city-based restaurant chain made a bomb threat call to its Whitefield branch over unpaid salary. The call was declared a hoax by the police and Velu, the caller, was detained.

Police officials say hoax calls such as this often go up after a bomb blast rocks the city. The Rameshwaram Cafe in Brookefield was hit by an IED explosion on March 1. Six days later, chief minister Siddaramaiah, deputy CM D K Shivakumar and several other ministers in Karnataka received a bomb threat via email. However, Siddaramaiah denied he received any threat email personally.

The police weigh in on why citizens make hoax threats.

“The (Rameshwaram Cafe) blast was big news. When people keep watching such news on TV and reading about it constantly in the newspaper, they tend to get influenced. They try to think of ways they could use a bomb threat to their benefit. Some want to be a part of the news just for thrill. But when the hysteria dies down, they move on,” says D Devaraja, DCP (east).

Such pranks also shoot up during the election season, a senior police official tells Metrolife.

“Anytime there is a high intensity situation in the city, like elections or some unrest, people tend to get a thrill from pulling such pranks. They either think they’ll get away with it or do it for five minutes of fame,” he says.

On February 24, a Bengaluru resident was detained for making a hoax bomb call to delay his wife’s flight from Mumbai. Such hoax threats are commonplace. C K Baba, DCP (south east), shares, “Earlier, when I was handling north east Bengaluru, we used to get many such calls from people who weren’t able to make it to the airport on time. They would call the airport or the airline to say there was a bomb on the flight. Sometimes they would get other people involved.”

Such callers also include disgruntled workers who want to seek revenge from their former employers. Baba recalls an incident from last 
November when a woman made multiple hoax bomb calls to Tata Consultancy Services’ Electronic City campus. “She was in her mid-twenties. She was an ex-employee. She was hunting for a job. We booked a case against her,” he shares.

Even children indulge in such pranks. “Kids who aren’t aware of the consequences do it as a joke. Some have left unattended bags and made hoax calls. Some do this out of boredom. But we always take each call seriously,” adds Baba.

Punishable offence

The act of making hoax bomb threats is punishable under Chapter 22 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with criminal intimidation, insult and annoyance, says advocate Akanksha Natesan.

“Criminal intimidation has been defined to include threats to cause personal injury, harm to reputation or property with an intent to cause alarm to a person, or to induce that person to do an illegal act to avoid the execution of the threat. Depending on the form of criminal intimidation, the imprisonment can range from 2 to 7 years, or fine, or both,” she shares.

However, the accused are often let off with a strict warning, says D Devaraja, DCP (east). “The offence is easily bailable. We decide on further action based on the motive of the accused,” he adds.

Psychologist’s POV

Revenge usually stems from insecurity and impulsiveness, shares Nithya J Rao, psychologist. “Once the small acts of revenge start bringing satisfaction, this trains the brain to seek revenge repeatedly. It can even be linked to childhood experiences. It is usually an impulsive response, an attempt to regain control and feel powerful after an unexpected loss of power,” she shares. People who indulge in such activities for thrill are often “seeking an adrenaline rush” and “tend to disregard social consequences”.

Published 04 April 2024, 22:59 IST

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