It's a disturbing new trend. The U.S. Coast Guard says they're receiving more fake distress calls than ever.
Officials say it's only risking their lives and costing taxpayers more money. A lot more money. It costs close to $100,000 a day for every search.
WITN caught up with Senior Chief Jeremy McConnell on Wednesday. He's the officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Fort Macon. McConnell says there's been seven fake mayday calls so far this year, compared to only two hoax calls in 2013.
"You're sending people out in really nasty weather. Searching for nothing. Putting people in danger," says McConnell. "And not just that. It takes us away from helping another mariner. It's imperative that we be able to help and support the public in the way it needs to be helped."
The Coast Guard says each hoax call is a federal offense that carries up to six years in prison.
McConnell says new technology has been developed to track where the distress calls are coming from. It works on water and on land.
Recently, Homer Blackburn was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Blackburn must also pay more than $280,000 in restitution for a three-day search. Officials say he made a fake mayday call and watched as the Coast Guard searched for no one.
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