Man pretends to be woman on internet, recovers lost phone in double-quick time

Filed Under: Featured, Privacy, Social networks

Remember this? Even the filename was cool - LLLLL.COM. They don't make them like they used to. PS. Ken sent me. New York trombonist Nadav Nirenberg is nothing if not a story-teller of the first water.

After leaving his mobile phone in a taxi on the way to a gig on New Year's Eve (Nirenberg claims), he soon noticed that whoever picked it up had logged in a dating site account he no longer uses (Nirenberg assures us), and was looking for love.

In a story that could have come straight out of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (and probably would have, if only the world-wide web had existed back in 1987), Nirenberg says that he decided to get even.

So he knocked up a fake female profile in the name of Jennifer Gonzalez, and replied to his imposter to say, "Sure, I'd love to go out with you. Even though you've already told me you're not the bloke whose photo appears in the profile, but rather a friend using someone else's account, yeah, sure, here's my address. Stop on by and we'll hit the town." (Or words to that effect.)

True enough (Nirenberg says), the imposter showed up, dressed for a night out, with a bottle of wine and in a fug of cologne.

Whereupon our cool-thinking brass player snuck up behind our wannabe Leisure Suit Larry with $20 and a hammer in his hand (a strange choice of weapon, but not used threateningly, Nirenberg takes pains to point out) and calmly bought his phone back from Jennifer's now greatly-surprised (and no doubt deeply disappointed) suitor.

In some ways, a happy ending for everyone. Nirenberg got his phone back just in time to land a short-notice gig on New Year's Day, and followed that up with fifteen metaphorical minutes of fame in media outlets around the world. Larry won't be reported to the police (Nirenberg says). Jennifer avoided a dubious night out. All thanks to the magic of online dating.

The only person who didn't get a say in all of this was the girl (as Nirenberg refers to her) whose picture was borrowed for the fake profile.

Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. Unless, of course, there isn't any truth in it at all. In that case, it remains an amusing story.

Except for the bit about appropriating someone else's photo. No matter how harmless that might seem in retrospect, please don't embroil anyone else's identity or personal information in any online trick or trap you might want to spring.

Nirenberg himself expresses surprise at just how quickly his fake persona attracted replies, even posting a screenshot of JennifferInBK's inbox to prove his point.

No matter how harmless this might seem in retrospect, there's nothing that the real Jennifer can now do to disentangle her visage from all that attention. That's hardly fair, is it?

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7 Responses to Man pretends to be woman on internet, recovers lost phone in double-quick time

  1. Justin Ong · 970 days ago

    This shows that we shouldn't trust anyone we've met online. No matter how he/she looks or what he/she says about themselves.

  2. Ian Eiloart · 970 days ago

    Would this be OK if the image were bought from a stock image agency? Or were a public domain image?

    • David · 970 days ago

      It would probably still violate the terms of service of the dating site and the stock photo company. If the image were public domain, it still would not be fair to the person whose image is being used falsely.

    • herzco · 969 days ago

      If you buy a gun (legally) and use it for an illegal activity it is not OK. Same principal applies.

  3. Mano · 969 days ago

    And so whose address did he give the guy to meet him? Either he was stupid enough to give his own or some unsuspecting person may perhaps be getting a vengeance call on their house.

  4. Randy · 969 days ago

    I would have asked the cabbie for my phone back and ash him how much it is worth to him to keep his job and not start a police record. I think $200 would be a bargain.

    • spidersilk · 968 days ago

      Why assume it was the cabbie who took it? I doubt most cab drivers check their back seats thoroughly after each fare leaves, so there were probably plenty of other passengers who could have found it long before the cabbie would have.

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog