This Moment Ends the Most Traumatic and Scariest Five Hours of My Life
This is probably not the most appropriate forum for the experience I’m about to share with you, but I need to write this while everything is fresh in my mind. I hope that it helps you if the same situation ever happens to you and your family.
I was on a conference call with Rene Rodriguez and David Childers this afternoon when I received a call on my cell phone. The incoming caller ID showed my home phone number. So I muted Rene and Childers and answered the phone assuming it was my wife. The voice on the other end of the phone asked me in a masked voice if I knew if my family was safe.
“Do you know if your family is safe?”
Who is this?
“Do you know if your family is safe?”
Okay, now I’m freaking out. I hang up both the cell and office lines and run into David Orsini’s office and tell him what is going on. We both jump in David’s car and speed like crazy toward my condo – about a 5 minute drive. Meanwhile I’m on the phone with 911 telling them what had just happened. Along the way, we pass a policeman who we flag down and who follows us back to my condo. While I was on the phone with 911, David called my wife Abby who was at work and safe. Abby immediately called our daughter’s day camp and determined that she was also safe. So – the dreaded and unimaginable had been averted – thank you God.
Me, David and the policeman got to my condo and looked around – everything looked as we left it when Abby and I had left for work this morning. Now here is the complicating factor – the condo we’ve been renting was just listed for sale. The only request we’ve made of the listing agent was that she give us 24 hours notice before a showing. Wouldn’t you know it, around 10:30am the listing agent received a request to show our place from another agent. Reluctantly, my wife accommodated the request even though we hadn’t anticipated today’s showing and hadn’t locked up access to our valuables or tidied up.
This showing was supposed to be at 1pm. The dreaded phone call I received happened at 3:38pm. Could the person have visited our condo, run to Home Depot, and made a duplicate key? There is a lot more to this story than you probably want or need to know… but after researching this all night here’s what I’m pretty sure happened…
There is such a thing as “Caller ID Spoofing”. Apparently, anyone in the world can make a phone call using a simple application and make it look like they are calling from any number they choose. And yes, if you have an iPhone, there’s an app for that too. In this case, someone had both my mobile and home phone numbers – ironically I don’t even know my home phone number by heart… it just shows up on my cell phone as Mark Green (H). Very few people have my home phone number – and I almost never even answer the home phone… which made it all the more scary.
I am not sure, but I think Caller ID Spoofing is illegal in some instances and not in others. Here are a few things I wanted to get across to you by sharing this story:
1) I thought to myself, how did someone get my home number AND my cell phone. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out, unfortunately. I googled my home phone number and my name and home address came up instantly. How effed up is that? I am sure my mobile phone is out there on the Internet too.
a) Your action item: Google your phone number using the following format xxx-xxx-xxxx. Hopefully your number is not listed, but if is, click on the link that says “Phonebook results for xxx-xxx-xxxx. Below your listing, you should see a link that says “Request to have your name removed from this list”. Click that and fill out their form. Google says that you showed up on their site because you have a listed number. So the next step after that is to make your phone number unlisted with your phone company.
2) Obviously, if you get a mysterious phone call from a Caller ID you recognize, I hope my experience helps you think clearly. There are all kinds of nasty ways this Caller ID Spoofing can be used. Someone can do what they did to me, obviously, but they can also call you from the same phone number as the local branch of your bank and begin asking you personal questions about your account. Someone can do the same thing during the mortgage process to provide a phony Proof of Employment. Nasty stuff.
3) Never, ever, ever take anything you love for granted. For just a few minutes, I lived the nightmare every human being dreads. But I know that some good has already come out of it… and more good will continue to come out of it. I’ve always tried to keep proper perspective and understand how lucky… and truly blessed… I am. The past five hours, I hope, will help me remember to always cherish and appreciate the things it would be easy to take for granted. I have a great wife. A great kid. Loving parents and siblings. A great job. Fantastic friends. And a life I wouldn’t trade with anybody in the world.