Police turned up at the house of a Facebook executive in California this week after a prankster imitated him and said he had shot his wife and taken his children hostage.

The call was a hoax known as "swatting" where the suspect sends emergency services to a location by phoning in a fake, often violent, crime.

The Palo Alto Daily Post reported that the Facebook exec, who has not been named, was briefly handcuffed.

Facebook thanked the police and said it was "glad that our colleague and his family are safe."

Police showed up at a Facebook executive's house in California after receiving a hoax call from someone impersonating the executive, saying he had shot his wife and taken his children hostage.

In a press release, Palo Alto police said an as yet unidentified male rang 911 at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, purporting to be the executive, who has not been named.

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