WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Picture this: you just bought your young kids their first cell phone—only to find out the number previously belonged to a prostitute.
That's what happened to one West Fargo woman who contacted our Whistleblower Hotline. She wants parents to know a new phone number may not be so new after all.
West Fargo mom, Julie Zimny, has three kids, all under the age of 12. She recently added a new cell phone to her plan for her kids to use in the house—but soon found the number wasn't a new one.
"Initially we got a couple text messages coming through,” Zimny said. “I assumed maybe it was an ex-boyfriend looking to hook up, that sort of thing, so I kind of ignored it."
Then she realized this wasn't some ex-boyfriend from the previous number holder.
"There was a person saying, you know, 'I'm a 30-year-old male in West Fargo, I live alone in my home, I'm looking to get together, this is my first time. I want to be dominated,'” Zimny said. “And he was really persistent, like I think there were maybe 10, 15 messages where he just kept asking and asking, 'this ad looks too good to be true.'"
Zimny says at least 20 separate numbers have since texted the phone.
"There's quite a few, I've got a list going," she said.
The West Fargo mom initially put the phone on privacy mode. But then she chose to allow the messages in, while guarding her kids from the phone. She sent screen shots of the messages to her own cell phone, so she could show them to the police.
Typically she wouldn't reply to the messages—but she did once, to find out where on earth the calls were coming from.
“He actually went off on me, saying like, 'Why would you have a child's phone number listed on an adult website?'” Zimny said. “I was like, 'Obviously I did not list my child's number on an adult website.’…I said, 'Well would you mind telling me where you found the site?’ And he sent me the link, and then was like, 'You know, I'm so sorry, I'll never contact you again,' sort of thing."
Zimny showed us the website. Now, she says, the calls started to make sense.
“I did answer one phone call,” she said... “When I googled the phone number it was somebody who's actually been busted in a sting before. So that was interesting and alarming, obviously, as a parent."
We reached out to her carrier, AT&T, to find out its policy on switching numbers, and are still waiting on a response.
Zimny says she plans to change her number, but first wants to aid in the police investigation by keeping it for now.
"I really want something to come of this,” she said. “I don't think that it's okay that there's this number of people trying to commit a crime and nothing's been done about it...like what if my kids had answered those text messages or those calls and had met up with somebody. You know, that is terrifying to think about."
The West Fargo police would not comment on the case, saying it's an active investigation.
Luckily Zimny says, this was to be used as the kids' house phone, so she was able to monitor it. From this experience, Zimny says she thinks it’s a good idea for parents to hold onto kids’ phones and monitor them for a while, before letting them take the phones to school with them.
“After everything we've been through,” she said, “just having that kind of, maybe like a trial period or something where you are kind of checking in on that phone."
Zimny suggests keeping a contact list on your kids’ phones—and keeping track of anyone who's not on it.