August 10, 2012

Hawaii 5-0, Part III

Note: I don't recommend reading this post unless you've previously read Part I annnnd Part II. There are lots of crazies and moving parts involved here.

And now, for the grand (theft) finale!

I wish I could remember more details of the conversations that followed, because in immediate retrospect that night, they were hilarious. I cried telling this part of the story the next day.

We THOUGHT the proof was in the scratchin'.
Enter the young lady we will call "Birthday Girl."

Birthday Girl said she was calling me because she'd been receiving strange texts from two non-Hawaii numbers (mine and bro-in-law's) about this stolen phone. She was confused. I explained how our phone had been stolen just hours before, and it was an odd coincidence that she had just posted the same phone with a verrrrry similar scratch. (Jeremy swore it was the scratch he had on his phone, which is why we were so convinced.) I explained what had happened with the previous posters, and how now they weren't answering. If she hadn't stolen it, I was sorry (yes, it's awkward to apologize to someone who you think may have stolen your property), but I hoped she understood what a crazy coincidence this would have to be.

"I don't know what you're talking about?! My cousin gave me this phone for my birthday last year. I just use it for music."

"Well if that's true, I'm sorry (and this is really awkward). I just know by the photo that it's our phone."

"I seriously don't even know what you're talking about. This is the first time I've ever posted anything on Craigslist!"

"Well, just so you know (and clearly you do by the fact that it's after midnight and you're on the phone texting and talking to complete strangers accusing you of a felony), it's very common for phones to be stolen and resold on Craigslist." (I figured if I was ruining her late night with my polite hypothetical accusation, the least I could do was offer a brief lesson on the dark sides of Craigslist.)

Then I had an idea. If she could prove that the phone had a different serial number than Jeremy's, we'd know she was telling the truth, and we could all move on from this weird exchange. She didn't know how to find it, so I walked her through a quick tutorial. She would call me back with a photo.

But wait. While she was taking a photo of the serial number, we realized: she could be taking a photo of ANY phone's serial number! She eventually texted me a photo, and the serial number wasn't a match. We didn't expect it to be. We were back where we started. This had now become a bizarre team effort among the three of us. How could she prove her innocence?

As it turns out, she didn't have to.


Police Visit #3:
While I was on the phone with Birthday Girl around 1:20 am (!), Officer Cool showed up at our door. With Jeremy's phone in his hand. He said once "the boys" returned, Senior had some words for them, and they gave it up. Apparently they didn't even have time to wipe Paul Bunyan Jr.'s Apple ID off the phone before its surrender. Yeah. His email address. Complete with first and last name, as if we didn't already know. (No, we didn't send him an email. Tempting though!)

How's that for proof!?
As you can see by the photo above, they did take out the SIM card and wipe it clean for posting on Craigslist, so all of those photos and videos were lost. At least when we plugged it in to iTunes, we discovered the ridiculously embarrassing nickname Paul Jr. had apparently given both himself and the kidnapped iPhone: Thundergod. Uh-huh. There's more to that story.

...Hey...speaking of ridiculously embarrassing... remember that time I was on the phone accusing an innocent bystander of stealing our phone when it showed up at our door unscathed and with police escort?

Yeah.

I quickly apologized to Birthday Girl. Seriously. What a terrible night for a first Craigslist post! We laughed, marveling at the fact that Davy Crockett was able to get the phone back for us. If only we could've been flies on the wall in his house that night.

So that's the story!

In retrospect, I kind of wish we had pressed charges. I have high expectations for military personnel (and college athletes too). We all do! Overall, they deserve the respect the community gives them, but a few bad apples like these guys can easily spoil the bunch. I'm afraid we may have just helped them refine their process so that they actually get away with it next time. Plus, Jimmy has a wife and son (or so I assume based on his profile picture). I didn't want them to lose their livelihood over his (and/or his brother's/cousin's/friend's) poor decision, although surely they'll be impacted one day, if they haven't been already.

My main reason for not wanting to press charges was for our safety. I didn't know if they knew what Jeremy looked like, or if they saved our photos and contact details, and it wasn't worth the risk. I didn't want to anger a crew of clearly irresponsible individuals with little concern for consequences. Bummer. The only consolation to that end is knowing that they must have gotten into SERIOUS trouble with Davy Crockett. I like to think he handled things well enough all on his own. And Paul Senior probably had some choice words for the son who was supposed to be "protecting [their] name."


**I'd like to take this opportunity to offer a shout-out to my twin bro-in-law, because if he hadn't counted the houses to find the address on Google Maps, none of this madness would have been possible.**

iPhones are stolen all. the. time. Here are the lessons to be learned from our episode:
  1. Never let it out of your sight if you're out in public. Not in your stroller, not on the bleachers, not on your desk at work as you leave to go to the bathroom. There's too big of a resale market for them.
  2. Install Find My iPhone, for if nothing else, it's exciting (/nauseating) to track the thieves and nice to know you can wipe your data. It can even play a loud beep if you lose it in your house.
  3. Back up photos and videos on a regular basis, as those are the only things money can't replace.
  4. Google is very helpful and very creepy. The fact that we pieced all that together so quickly is evidence that we share way more information than we realize, even (especially) through public records.
  5. If you're going to falsely accuse someone of a felony, it's polite to say you're sorry afterward.
Oh yes, and I seem to remember one well-known commandment that has some relevance here. Something along the lines of...THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.

That's a good one too.

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

August 9, 2012

Hawaii 5-0, Part II

Click here for Part I.

Well, whattya know?

Creepy. And they lied. It's only 16GB.

The (pretend) first name listed in the Craigslist ad for this iPhone, mysteriously posted about an hour after Jeremy's was stolen, was Jimmy. The same first name as Jimmy Crockett, our Facebook suspect with the military and telecom connection and the same last name as the homeowner where the phone showed up. What a surprise.

I figured out how to block my number and called the number in the listing. The fellow who I presume to be Jimmy (but could've been Paul Jr.) answered the phone with a suspicious hello.

I told him I was calling about the iPhone on Craigslist, and he asked, in a rather unfriendly voice, "Can you call back from an unblocked number?" and so I did. When I said I had a few questions, he impatiently asked, "What do you want to know?"


"Just the usual stuff. How long have you had it, how do I know it's not stolen so I'll be able to get it activated, is there any flexibility in price..."

"Uhhhh I don't want to talk to you anymore."

And he hung up.

SERIOUSLY!? He really said that. And he really hung up on me.

That's not how you speak to a potential buyer if you want to sell your stuff. This was SO FRUSTRATING. We knew these were the guys who stole the phone, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.


Police Visit #2:
Officer Cool made it back to our house around midnight. He told us he had gone to the house, and Davy Crockett, Sr. answered the door. Here's where it gets funny. As it turns out, Papa Crockett is a prison guard. (YEAH! I know.) He said "the boys" (who are in their mid- to late-twenties, mind you) weren't home at the moment, but he would most certainly have a chat with them upon their return and call the officers if he found something amiss.

I briefed Officer Cool on our new intel, courtesy of Craigslist. He agreed it was a compelling case, but we couldn't use that as evidence. There was nothing we could do except hope that Senior had some influence when Junior and friends got home. He'd let us know.

Cool left to go do something more important, and we called Jimmy back. No answer. No surprise. Then, around 11:30 pm, another phone by a similar description showed up under another listing. What a coincidence!, we thought. Now they're trying to throw us off by re-listing the same phone under different post, with a girl (who must be an accomplice) holding the phone in the photo.

I sent a couple of texts to the girl at the new number, politely asking the thieves to return the phone when the gym opened the next morning. We didn't want the police to be involved; we just wanted the phone back. At this point, my bro-in-law was texting her too, pretending to be interested in buying the phone, then referencing Jimmy, Paul Jr., and the theft. No response.

Until around 1:00 am, when my phone rang.

Click here for Part III, the shocking conclusion ;)

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

August 8, 2012

Hawaii 5-0, Part I

Last fall, my sister's iPhone was stolen right out of the stroller while she was enjoying a day at the zoo with our nieces and nephews. My sweet niece Leah had a hard time with the concept of stealing.

"Why would someone take something that they knew wasn't theirs?"

It's a good question!

While Stacey's phone was never recovered, it did not die in vain. The key lesson learned was that we should all get the Find My iPhone app. While knowing where the thief is with your stolen iPhone doesn't necessarily help in most cases, the ability to remote wipe the data (treasured photos, personal contact information, private messages, etc.) can at least provide a bit of solace in an otherwise very frustrating situation.

Fast forward to this spring. Jeremy went to a gym on base to play some basketball, and about an hour later, he walked through the door. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until I looked up and discovered a hint of helpless rage behind his eyes.

"Someone stole my phone at the gym."

Whaaaaaa?! He assured me it wasn't lost, and that he'd tried calling it from a stranger's phone (with the stranger's permission, of course). This was frustrating. We felt helpless for a second, then remembered the lesson of Stacey's stolen iPhone just a few months back.

We sprung to action, pulling up both Craigslist and Find My iPhone. Apparently our thieves weren't quite as sneaky as Stacey's, who waited until the middle of the night to turn on the phone after stealing it. These guys turned it on within 30 minutes.

What followed in the next four hours was (what I hope will be) the closest our personal life will ever get to an episode of Hawaii 5-0. [Even though I should confess here that I've never watched a full episode of the show - old or new. Sorry, Danno.]

Here's a summary of the key findings and events, names changed to protect the obviously guilty:

Jerm went to base to file a report with base police, since the crime happened there. Once we had a map dot showing where the thieves had turned on the phone, we called Honolulu PD. My resourceful bro-in-law got in on the action and did some detective work on his side, counting houses in the Google map to pinpoint an actual address. He then Googled the address, and found the names of the owners. We'll call them Davy Crockett, Sr. and Paul Bunyan. It's worth noting that if this address had associated with an apartment building, that would've been the end of the story. We never would've found names. But it wasn't, and we did.

Once we knew the names of the people who owned the house where the phone had been turned on, we did some more Googling. We found Facebook profiles of relatives of the owners (presumably their sons), Davy Crockett, Jr. and Paul Bunyan, Jr. We found that these guys matched the physical description of a group of guys leaving the gym right as Jeremy started playing. We found that Davy Jr. had a Facebook friend, perhaps a younger brother, Jimmy Crockett, who was in the military (base access) and used to work for a telecommunications company (knows about locking/unlocking phones). Paul Jr. was a former college football player.

This HAD to be them.

The most interesting search result for Paul Jr. was a six-year-old feel-good story in the local newspaper about this promising young athlete following in the footsteps of his dad, his namesake, a local sports hero who went on to play college ball. Kid you not, he's quoted saying, "I just try my hardest to represent the name." Mission accomplished.


Police Visit #1
A very nice young HPD officer (we'll call him "Officer Cool") came to our door around 10 - 10:30. I apologized for wasting his time on such a seemingly minor thing. He told us he was just starting his shift, and he'd be glad to go to the house. No bigs. He also said that even though we had our map dot, address, owner name, and Facebook profiles, unless Jerm could positively ID the thief who actually swiped the phone, there was little he could do besides ask a few questions.

We told him we didn't care about pressing charges, that we were more concerned about the photos and videos of our precious little one (who was sleeping peacefully upstairs, blissfully unaware of the craziness happening below him). Those lost memories were our main concern. Officer Cool said people tend to be more open if they know they're not facing slammer time, so that might help get the phone back. (Those weren't his exact words...)

He left to go to the house, and the adrenaline rushes and internet searches continued. We refreshed Craigslist to see if the phone would show up.

It did.

Time for a commercial break.... Click for Part II and Part III!

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!