After a minor traffic incursion on the school bus, my wife and I broke down at the end of last school year and got cell phones for our kids to keep in their backpacks in case of emergencies. Nothing fancy, just a couple of prepaid clamshell style phones to give them and ourselves peace of mind.
Recently, I had to replace my son’s phone and he ended up with a much cooler model with a slide out keyboard. Since I often pick up one or both children after school, they were given permission to power up upon exiting the school building to see if I had sent any texts notifying them of last minute changes to the day’s agenda.
My son came home yesterday and informed me that he had lost his new phone. After the deserved tongue lashing about responsibility and the forfeiture of his allowance until the phone, penalties and other fees had been compensated I calmed down and told him to look on the bus and in his locker when he returned to school this morning. I also wanted him to send me a text if he found his phone.
About 1 PM today my wife suggested I log onto our wireless carrier to see if there had been any activity on our son’s phone in the past 24 hours. What do you know? There were numerous text messages and voice calls made as recently as 12:19PM this very day. When the recipient of the most recent call was called by my wife informed that he had been contacted on a lost cell phone he gave her the name of the person who had called him.
My wife logged onto a social network, typed in the name she had been given and got a hit on a young woman in her twenties about 2 miles from where we live. Further investigation on the social network gave us her own cell phone number which I called and explained my predicament to her voice mail. I then proceeded to leave text and voice messages on every number provided by our carrier informing the recipients that we were interested in facilitating the return of our son’s phone and to have the woman who had contacted them call my cell number ASAP.
About a minute later, my phone rang and there was an obviously scared young woman telling me she didn’t know the phone had been lost. I arranged to meet her in the parking lot of a local business and told her what vehicle I would be driving. Then I got “Bikered up” and headed down the road.
My kids are in the 6th grade and ride the bus with kids as old as 18 years of age. I wasn’t sure who had picked up my boy’s phone and wanted to send a message loud and clear to the young lady I was about to meet that I was content to forgive and forget this indiscretion on the one condition that there would be no harassment of my children on their bus. To this end, I pulled up with Hatebreed screaming their cover to Slayer’s “Ghosts of War” at about 90 decibels. As I whipped into the parking lot and lowered my window, Jasta was screaming out the crescendo, “I…deal in pain.” Mission accomplished.
The young woman handed me my boy’s phone while stammering out apologies and telling me that she was getting numerous texts and calls telling her that somebody was looking for her and she needed to call a cell number right away. While staring through the eyes straight down to the soul of this opportunistic young lady, I thanked her and said, “Someone on my kid’s bus gave you this phone. I don’t know who it was, nor do I care. Please inform them that my children are not to catch any blowback from this and you will never hear from me again.” She told me a bold faced lie that she had found my son’s phone on the side of the road and figured, “Huh, a free phone.” I thanked her for doing the right thing in contacting me and drove home.
Where I take no sense of machismo pride in intimidating young women, I handled the issue appropriately. There were no threatening statements sent out to her and those she had contacted, only a firm demand that our property be returned. Cooler heads prevailed and the situation was resolved with the expectation that none of the parties involved ever cross paths again. I’m confident that my message was relayed to the person who should have left alone what did not belong to him or her.
My boy made a simple mistake that was easily resolved by the use of modern technology and a bit of ingenuity on the part of me and my wife. It took less than 2 minutes from the time we had this person’s name to find her home address, cell phone number and even the name of the guy she loves. It was on her profile page for the whole world to see.
If two middle aged people can gather so much personal information with virtually no effort, what can a criminal with knowledge, experience, better equipment and malice in his heart accomplish? That thought will keep me awake for the next few nights. I can assure you that as I write this, I am checking the security and privacy settings on every network linked to the lives of me and my family.