14-month-old tot buys her dad a car on eBay

Filed Under: Featured, Security threats

Child on smartphone. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.Last month, Paul Stoute didn't have facial recognition securing his mobile phone.

That changed rather quickly after his 14-month-old daughter, Sorella, opened the eBay app on her dad's phone, clicked around a bit, and wound up buying him a a 1962 Austin Healey.

According to KOIN 6 News, Stoute, who lives in Portland, Oregon, US, only found out about his new car when he got a congratulatory note from eBay.

He and his wife's reaction was, initially at least, mild panic, he told KOIN 6 News, as they fretted over what they should do and how they couldn't really afford it.

Eventually, they decided to keep the car, which Sorella bought for $225.

The Austin Healy, fortunately enough, was located within a 20-minute drive. Given it was eBay, it could have been a lot further away.

Stoute said he'd like to restore the car, having done auto body work in the past, and has started a page on a fundraiser website to make it happen.

That way, he could give Sorella her car, maybe for her 16th birthday or for graduation, KOIN 6 News proposed.

Stoute said he's just happy the damage wasn't worse - and when you're talking eBay, that can be magnitudes of pain and financial migraine worse, as he noted:

“I’m just glad she didn’t buy the $38,000 Porsche I was looking at."

As I write this article I'm baffled as to how to categorize it as I would normally.

ebay logoHow do you refer to a click-happy tot? Should I label Sorella a "rogue application"? Or does she fall under the "clickjacking" category?

More to the point, how do you prevent your beloved progeny from giving you surprises like this?

Besides activating facial recognition, Stoute also changed his PIN.

Those are good steps. Actually, uninstalling the eBay app entirely wouldn't be too shabby, either.

On its safety tips page, eBay also suggests the option of the PayPal Security Key, a two-factor verification approach that entails either a $29.95 credit-card sized device that creates a unique, one-time security code or an SMS-delivered security code, with which standard text messaging rates apply.

If I had a child playing with my cell phone, bless her curious, button-poking soul, I'd jump on that, stat.

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27 Responses to 14-month-old tot buys her dad a car on eBay

  1. Why was the child allowed to 'play' with the phone in the first place? It isn't a toy. My phone never leaves my sight.

    • markstockley · 815 days ago


    • Tons of parents let their kids play with their phone nowadays. I've even seen a toddler begging for his father's iPhone. I understand there are apps for kids, but phones should still not be toys. Blows my mind that little kids these days have their own cell phones and iPad. I had a play phone and Etch-a-Sketch when I was their age!

    • I'm right there with you Suzanne. Far from a toy and mine doesn't leave my side either.

    • whyzeeguy · 815 days ago

      Because when you have kids around there is no telling what they will get into when you've turned your back for 45 seconds. The worst sound is no sound at all.

    • James Magnan · 815 days ago

      Because kids can grab them in a second. My child at 1 year would unlock an ipad, launch and play kids games. Now he is 3, we have a tablet we have for his use when needed, loaded with only kids games and movies. He know how to unlock, navigate, and launch specific apps.

      It was the only way to keep him off our devices.

      • Spot on James, my kids can already use touch enabled devices and apps and are ahead of the game in their education as a result. We got them their own iPad2 to use, loaded it with kids apps (primarily educational ones), disabled the internet and let them go.

        Now the kids (Age 6 and 3) are uninterested in our phones and every once in a while I go and refresh their apps with news ones etc.

        To all the parents going on about the 'adultness of a smartphone', you're actually wrong: Your smartphone IS a consumer device and it IS very much a toy and I can promise it isn't marketed at you (think younger, think teens and twenties). More fool you if you don't lock it down appropriately enough that small children, big children or thieves get a hold of it and wreak hell on your finances. Oh yes and to those that say "It never leaves my side" - yeah that's a great thing to say - until it does.

    • Because sometimes one needs to entertain their child for a moment to keep them busy. Because toddlers have an extreme fascination with iphones, cell phones, and remote controls. Because some people actually get educational apps for their kids and download them to their phones. I can't believe how judgmental people are being. I'm guessing the majority of you do not have small children.

      • AndyB · 813 days ago

        I have had small children. At a certain age, they think it's very amusing to drop things into the toilet bowl. It's bad enough when those things are toothbrushes or rolls of toilet paper. It's a lot worse when they are your iPhone.

        For about $10 on eBay, you can buy realistic-looking (but non-functional) phone display models that will be as good for pretend play as a real phone.

  2. Alan · 815 days ago

    Another option is to use a mobile OS that protects your information, for example, using Windows Phone's Kid's Corner mode so that no matter what she clicks, she can't buy a car. Or cancel a mortage payment. Or many other things waiting a few clicks away.

  3. Alex B · 815 days ago

    I can't be the only one thinking this is a cover story!
    He wanted that car, and after buying it had to think of an excuse...
    Waaay too convenient that it was only 20 minutes down the road.

    I'll blame the dog next time I buy another motorcycle off eBay.

  4. Greg · 815 days ago

    "I swear I didn't buy that, honey! It must have been...*internal dialogue - Anonymous...no..it was the hacking neighbor kid...no...someone stole my phone...no...(looking around the room, spies 14 month old daughter blowing spit bubbles)...* it was Sorella! She is the one who did it! Honest!

  5. Jack · 815 days ago

    I see this all the time, when I'm out I always see the kid make a fuss, then the parent hands them their phone. What idiots, as was said phones are not toys and should not be handed around, what kind of security will the kid grow up to use? They follow what is shown to them. At least they did the right thing and purchased the car, too bad is wasn't the 38K Porshe that he was looking at! Maybe he would think twice!

    I have the same problem while waiting at Apple, they have a 'children' area right behind you while you getting servie, and it's abunch of kids playing on iPads. This is bad as you can't hardly look at equipmet since everyone is playing with them. I used to like to go to the Apple store, but it's become such a headach that I can't hardly deal with it anymore.


  6. Lizzy E · 815 days ago

    I put parental controls on my Kindle Fire fast when I realized how easy it would be for my four-year-old to spend money in games! You need to type in a password before downloading apps or making purchases, and if I shut down wifi, to turn it back on. Doesn't stop her from resetting the device, though...

  7. This is the problem with modern technology. Most of us simply don't bother to set up all the protection stuff and then leave the gizmo laying around for anyone to pick up! That is why my cell phone is simply a cell phone ... for talking to people ... and it never leaves my side when not in use, it stays in the holder on my belt! If I want to surf the net I use my protected laptop, and I don't leave USB devices laying around either!

  8. whyzeeguy · 815 days ago

    I never liked the one click option in any eCommerce site. This can lead to disastrous results eventually just by a simple mis-click

  9. A simple fix that would have worked here:
    Don't save your passwords for your accounts on your phone; enter them manually (or only store them in encrypted vaults that require more than a 4-digit PIN to unlock).

    Requiring passwords for sites like eBay/Apple Store/Google Play/ Amazon has the additional benefit that it cuts down on impulse purchases, as you actually have to think before you purchase.

    Of course, this recommendation only works if you use secure passwords that are unique to each service.

    • A "simple" NO, would also have solved this before it happened, if not the kid would cry herself to sleep. Try it.

  10. Passcode lock those phones and don't allow your tot to play with phones with sensitive apps or details on it. Buy an iPad that's specifically for tot gaming if you want to give your tot an electronic toy... and there are some very good apps on the appstore for young children....

    But they should never be allowed to touch your phone that has your bank app or your ebay, paypal, etc on. Your child does not understand the consequences of his or her actions. consequences you will be legally bound to abide by unless you are lucky enough to get the seller to cancel the bid or sale.

  11. sallie · 815 days ago

    I smell bullshit.

  12. gest · 815 days ago

    allowing end users to delete undeletable game apps might help...-cough- apple -cough-

  13. Darren E · 815 days ago

    For anyone that lets there child play with their phone you should consider a windows device as it has a whole separate area called kids corner that you can choose what apps games and such go in there that your child cant get out of without a passcode therefore leaving you free from worry of surprise speedboats and jewellery turning up at your door, my current device is a lumia 920 and the kids corner is pure genius. Facial recognition or paying $30 to secure you phone seems a bit far when we already have the technology, you just need to look around a bit more!

  14. Gila · 815 days ago

    If I had one, she could touch it all she wanted to if it would get me a '62 Austin Healey for $225. The best security is not having a cel-phone to begin with...

  15. I would put this under the category of "The Dumb Dad that Lets his child play with smartphone"... but that's just me.

  16. Mick · 813 days ago

    Saw a kid using his dad's iPhone to dig holes in the sand, while he snoozed off the 4 cans of Carlsberg he'd just swallowed.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.