Thieves, Autism, Netflix, And Thongs

, , , , | Legal | September 14, 2019

A few years ago, while on my lunch break, I went to a nearby department store to pick up a few things. At the time, I had an iPhone 5C that had been part of a Black Friday promotion the year before. It was showing some usual wear and tear, but it was still a good phone and I had no plans to get a new one anytime soon. 

As I was checking out at the store, I placed my phone on the little credit card reader shelf directly in front of me to pay for my purchase. I looked up from the shelf long enough to answer a question from the cashier, and started to leave with everything of mine that I could see in front of me.

I’d barely made it out the door when I realized that my phone wasn’t where I’d left it on the shelf. A quick search confirmed it wasn’t in my pockets, my purse, or my shopping bag. I ran back into the store and went straight to the cashier to ask if she’d picked up my phone by accident. No luck. She let me use the store phone to call my own number to see if it had fallen beneath the register or something. It rang several times, then clicked off like calls do when someone hits the “ignore” button. I immediately called again, and this time it went straight to voicemail. Someone had turned my phone off. 

Needless to say, I was starting to panic — not because I’d paid a lot of money for the phone, since it was part of a promotion, but more so because I had my friend’s and family’s contact information in the phone, including some addresses. At the time, I didn’t have a lock code on the phone — a mistake I’ve never made again — so I knew this person could open it and view everything. Not to mention, the principle of the matter was that this was theft and it’s a horrible feeling knowing that another person has intentionally taken something that belongs to you. Luckily, I never used any banking or shopping apps so there was no account information they could see. 

I have to say, [Store] was amazing throughout this experience. The security team immediately started pulling camera footage and register data to give to the police. The store manager let me sit and calm down, and I used the store phone to call my work, my husband, the police to file a report, and my phone carrier to report the phone as stolen. They’d still be able to use the Wi-Fi on the phone, but at least they wouldn’t be able to make calls or use data on my dime.

I was honestly expecting to never see that phone again, but here is how incredibly stupid the woman who stole my phone was. 

1) She was clearly on camera. The camera was even visible from the register. She reached out at the one moment the cashier and I looked at each other, snatched my phone off the shelf, and threw it in her purse. 

2) She used a credit card to pay for her own stuff, so they had her name and an address registered with the card. 

3) When the police tracked her down, she first claimed she didn’t steal it. Then, when confronted with video and credit card data, she tried to blame it on her autistic daughter! Yes, she had a five- or six-year-old girl with her in the video, and she tried to say the girl took my phone and was “holding it” when they got to their car. How low is that?

4) We knew for a fact she still had my phone because she’d managed to open my Netflix app and was letting her daughter watch cartoons on my account. (I changed the password as soon as proof was sent to the officer handling my case).

5) When the police arrested her and got the phone back, they found hundreds of pictures she’d taken of herself, mostly making duck-faces in various bathrooms — why bathrooms?! — and a few raunchier ones of her in a thong showing her a**, etc., and audio recordings she’d made of phone conversations with a man, trying to find out why she wasn’t being allowed to see her other three children. The police were pretty interested in those recordings, but I don’t know what came of that since they didn’t pertain to my case.  

It’s still crazy to me when I remember all of this, which took place over about a month. Now, I always have a code lock on my phone and I’ve never put it down on that little shelf again.

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