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Man uses online dating site to lure thief and recover stolen iPhone

Described in detail on his personal blog as well as a couple Reddit posts, musician Nadav Nirenberg accidentally left his iPhone in a taxi on New Year’s Eve on the way to a gig. After discovering that the smartphone was missing, Nirenberg attempted to repeatedly call his phone to connect with any person that may have found the Apple device. He also sent emails as well as left messages promising a reward if the phone was returned to him. After half a day of waiting for a response, Nirenberg came to the conclusion that the smartphone wasn’t going to be returned.

okcupid correspondence iPhone thiefOn the following day, Nirenberg discovered that the person using the smartphone was sending messages to local women though Nirenberg’s personal OkCupid account. It’s likely that the OkCupid online dating application installed on the iPhone was setup to be accessible without requiring a password each time to log into the service.

At this point, Nirenberg created a new email address and started a fake OkCupid profile under the name “Jennifer Rodriguez.” Posing as a young woman that recently relocated to Brooklyn, Nirenberg initiated a conversation with the person that was using his iPhone and was able to convince the thief to visit “Jennifer Rodriguez” at his apartment building. After giving the thief the address in addition to an apartment number on a floor above his own, Nirenberg waited for the thief to arrive at his building. 

okcupid profile iphone ownerWhen the thief arrived at the apartment building with a bottle of wine, Nirenberg approached the man from behind as he was walking up the stairs.

Spotting his iPhone in the thief’s hand, Nirenberg asked for the phone back, offered the man $20 for his trouble and informed the thief that the police were on the way. Nirenberg offered the money in order to disarm the thief with a “peace offering,” however Nirenberg was also carrying a hammer in one of his hands for personal protection. 

The thief immediately returned the iPhone and quickly left the apartment building. According to Nirenberg, the thief only used the OkCupid online dating application and avoided other iOS applications like email, Facebook or his banking software. Mentioned within comments on Reddit, Nirenberg believes that the thief was likely his cab driver the night of New Year’s Eve, but he doesn’t want the man to lose his job over the incident. In addition, Nirenberg is looking into installing anti-theft software on his smartphone to avoid future mishaps. 

Anti-theft applications that provide the current GPS location of stolen mobile electronics can often lead to larger arrests for additional crimes. For instance, the Find My iPhone application recently led Florida police to a suspect that was linked to a variety of car burglaries in the area based off the stolen items recovered at the suspect’s home.

During mid-September 2012, the same tracking application led police to a TSA agent at the Orlando International airport that stole an iPad from an employee of ABC News during a sting operation. The agent in question was fired immediately by the Transportation Security Administration and video of the theft aired on ABC News.