Immoral vermin now costing me $4.99 per month

Well, I can’t assume that he is vermin.  And I don’t want to insult our ferrets, whom I lovingly call our vermin (well — mostly lovingly). He might simply be a human being with advanced deterioration in his orbitofrontal cortex. But he is immoral.

About a week ago, I had received a burst of three-or-so texts with tasteless jokes that I assumed were simply the result of someone with a wrong number.  I let it slide.  Then, a few days later, I received a few more from the same number, one of which was horribly racist and offensive.  I thought I would at least try and call to politely let the person know that he was sending these to the wrong number.  Part of me was concerned that it was some sort of automated service that would now know I existed and begin targeting me even worse, but I thought I would gamble anyway.

All I got was a recording from “John” asking me to leave a message.  And I did, letting him know that he may be unaware, but his texts were going to the wrong number and that I would appreciate his correcting his contact list.

A few more days go by and I figured that, just maybe, all was OK.  I was sitting in the living room with my kiddos watching TV and I had six-year-old Boy #4 in my lap, requesting to play on my iPhone.  I told him that I would give it to him in just a few moments, and boy am I glad that I hesitated.

I had it in my hand and was going to give it to him when I heard it chime the familiar “You’ve got a text” noise.  On receiving a text message, my iPhone — even in sleep mode — will show you the text or image you’ve been sent and then go back to sleep if you don’t respond.  Well, upon hearing the chime, both Boy #4 and I instinctively looked at it and right there was a pornographic picture.  I covered it immediately with my hand (and honestly, freaked out a little) and apologized to Boy #4 for taking it away so quickly, saying that someone Daddy doesn’t know seems to keep sending him bad things.  He understood and, thankfully, is young enough that he probably had no idea what he was looking at in the small amount of time he saw it.

I, on the other hand, was furious, and — I will admit — even as I type this I start to feel incredibly angry that someone would do such a thing when any of my kids could have been holding that phone.  They play games on it often — and, as I said, were just about to — and it felt like an attack directly on my children.  I know it wasn’t, but it felt that way.

Realizing that this was serious and that I could not predict what this guy might send next, I told Boy #4 and his brothers that until Dad figured out a way to block this individual, I couldn’t let them use my phone.  Then, right after I said that, I received three more images from this person, and it was as if the vulgarity was getting worse with each send.

That night my Beautiful Wife and I researched options online and came to the conclusion that, generally, you cannot prevent your carrier from allowing a particular number to text you without paying for an additional service.  We did have the option of blocking text messages all together, but I hated the idea of removing the convenience of an occasional text message.  Also, I could assign an alias to my number, then only allow those who text to my alias address to be permitted, but I have had a few occasions where folks I wouldn’t have thought to give my alias to have texted me with information I really needed at times when texting was the best option.

So, I bit the bullet and added AT&T Smart Limits to my plan for $4.99 per month.  It was odd entering information for my own phone as if it were one of my children’s, but hopefully that will do the trick.  Based on some of the details I read on the Smart Limits website, I am not 100% sure that this will do the trick, and I may need to move to Plan B.  Just to be sure, I am going to wait a couple of weeks before I let them use the phone again to see if Mr. Pornography strikes again.

(For what it’s worth, I asked the service rep at the AT&T store if I could there was a setting on the Smart Limits plan that would send a focused pulse of particles into the phone of the offending individual to fry it’s circuits, but he said there wasn’t.  It never hurts to ask, you know.)

People do things like this for the fun of causing a hassle to someone else — the new millennium’s answer to “crank calls.”  But just thinking that my boys could so easily have been exposed to such vile images makes me mad.  Lawlessness abounds and the love of many does, indeed, grow cold (cf. Matt. 24:12).  I know this person is getting his jollies by doing this, but I wonder if he thinks about whether or not there might be a little kid on the other end of the line.  Even scarier, I wonder if he even cares.

[HAPPY UPDATE, 12/29/2009: See here.]

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10 thoughts on “Immoral vermin now costing me $4.99 per month

  1. Chris Johnson

    Hi Mr Smith,
    Times are getting worse and worse. People are definitly showing that they are lovers of themselves. Sadly, that probably began as a mistake and when you addressed it , they went in to attack mode. Our prayers are with you that this will work and block all incoming trash from your phone.

  2. Patricia

    Hello Mr Smith
    I am not very clued up to how these things happen. I do not follow anyone on Facebook, Twitter etc, only your website, Cogwriter and the LCG websites. I have a mobile phone but only use it when away at Passover and the Feast, otherwise it is just for emergencies. I would be interested to know how someone could get hold of your cell-phone number.
    On the subject of you having to pay each month to block him from sending more filth, would it not be better to change phone companies? I know it would be a bit of a hassle, but I really think that the phone companies should be looking after their clients, rather than charging for a service that is out of the client’s control. Mind you, maybe they are all the same with dollar signs in their eyes.
    I am sure that things will get worse before Jesus returns, and people’s minds will get sicker and sicker. I will pray for your situation, as I can’t think of anything worse to expose young, innocent children to.

  3. Howdy, Patricia, and thanks for the sympathy.

    As for getting my number, the AT&T rep assured me that it is a random matter and not necessarily someone I know who has my number. In fact, it could be related to a previous owner of the number. When I called the number back to let the person know that he was accidentally sending these to the wrong number, that’s when the “things” sent grew in vulgarity. So my call may have done nothing more than confirm to the prankster that he had a live one.

    As for phone companies taking care of their customers, I agree that there should be a simpler solution out there. And it did cross my mind to change numbers, but that would be the biggest inconvenience of all, so I am saving that option for last. Besides, if this individual randomly got this number to hassle, who’s to say that something similar won’t happen to the next number. So I am investigating other options at this point.

    Thanks for writing!

  4. Aggie

    “So, I bit the bullet and added AT&T Smart Limits to my plan for $4.99 per month.”

    Hi Wally, here’s my advice, hope it’s helpful to you.

    Since you have the prank caller’s number, your best bet is to report it to the police (especially if you’re being sent pornographic images).

    Give them as much information as you can, and if you’ve deleted the images, look for them in your Trash bin, and forward those to whoever will be investigating your case. Make the point that children use the device, that should light a fire under them.

    Give the cops the phone number of the pranker (assuming he’s not using a prepaid cell, likely not if he’s got messaging services), and whatever reverse directory info you can find on him (do a reverse number lookup, but fair warning, these can sometimes be out of date, and may be incorrect, if it’s a stolen phone — if it is a stolen phone, the cops should be even more interested).

    Sorry about the porn content (I’m sure you’re right, your kid probably didn’t even clue in to what it was, let alone get a good look at it), but I am glad to hear you were offended by the racist jokes.

    [Last sentence edited out by the Masked Editor! (If you could please visualize him as swinging in on a chandelier, I would appreciate it.) See my comment below.]


  5. Howdy, Aggie, and thanks for the note.

    [Note from the Masked Editor: Yes, I did delete your last comment, and I hope you don’t mind. (Though I did keep in the “I am glad to hear you were offended by the racist jokes” part. See, I met you half way!) I think it unfairly and inaccurately characterizes a lot of people whom I know and love deeply — folks who have earned my respect and for whom that characterization would be completely false. It’s just that, intended or not, the comment had the effect (at least to me) of stereotyping an entire group of people which, given the context, seemed both ironic and unnecessary. Though if that comment really did reflect the characteristics of those you personally knew, I hope that they have grown up.]

    I appreciate your advice — that thought had hit me, but I didn’t know if it was really worth pursuing. Once when my wife and I discovered that some mystery person was using one of our credit cards, we were told by the card’s company to call the police, which we did, but that was as far as it went and I was a bit underimpressed. Consequently, it left me with a bit of a “what’s the point” attitude. (FWIW: The credit card thing worked out fine, we caught it all before it got bad, and our credit rating wasn’t hurt. I say this because I just know you were worried…) 🙂

    However, you have emboldened me! I do still have the number. I tried a reverse lookup, but all I was able to get was the name of the cell carrier. However, I suppose I can call the carrier to lodge a complaint. And you’re right: I’ll bet that if I mention that my phone is used by children that would get the police going. I was going to save the texts, etc. as evidence for another week and a half while I am testing out the Smart Limits feature, in the event that it doesn’t do the job and I need to plead my case to a higher authority.

    Thanks, again, Aggie! If anything comes of taking these steps, I’ll try and report it back here. Plus, if the whole rotten story ends up on an episode of COPS, I’ll be sure you are credited properly.

  6. Lyndell

    Sure the source # ain’t spoofed? I don’t do phone testing and killed receipt of messages over spam, but carriers websites may have online forms for sending texts to their customers. I use them for my rare testing needs.

  7. purplehymnal

    “Though if that comment really did reflect the characteristics of those you personally knew, I hope that they have grown up.”

    It really did, Wally, and it is to my everlasting shame and horror that I used to laugh at those same jokes myself. 😦 One of the plaques in the Peoples Temple @ Jonestown did read, “Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.”

    As for the “unfairly and inaccurately characterizes a lot of people” part, I’m willing to meet you halfway: If the people you personally know today, really HAVE “grown up” and do not reflect the characteristics of the people I once personally knew (including myself), then perhaps there has been some small progress made, over the years.

    I, for one, fervently hope that is the case.

    BTW, if your local police department has a Computer Crimes section, it would probably be more effective, and efficient, to file your complaint directly with them.

    [BTW2 — Hey, Masked Editor, swinging in on a chandelier is groovy! Just so long as it’s not a three-million-dollar chandelier.] 😀

  8. Carolyn

    Times have changed. Years ago I experienced a similar problem with my home phone. This was before you could even get caller ID in the area I lived. Anyway, someone keep calling making very immoral suggestions towards my teenage daughter. If we didn’t answer the phone, they left a message on the answering machine. I got in touch with the phone company and they said they would put a trace on my phone. The trace would cost $100.00 unless I signed a paper, that if they caught the people doing this, I would prosecute. I signed the paper. They caught the two boys that were respondsible. One was the same age as my 16 year old daughter, and the other was just a young brother of one of his friends that he tricked into doing the calls. They were prosecuted. Each had to pay back $50.00 towards the $100.00 on the trace and each had to do so many hours of community service. Can you just imagine all the community service that would be done today if they prosecuted the criminal instead charging YOU to block the calls.

    Another agency you might want to get in touch with is the FCC. Read your rules for having your cell phone. Most state that harassement is a BIG no no. Get in touch with the carrier of the number and let them know that they have customers abusing the system. Let them know that this is a matter that you think the FCC should check into, if they can’t correct the situation.

    The scary part of all this is…they may be blocked from your number, but who have they found for their next victim.

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