Social Question

diavolobella's avatar

Why would a person attempt to contact a total stranger by phone and on Facebook after seeing their photograph in the newspaper?

Asked by diavolobella (7925points) September 21st, 2010

On Saturday I attended a social event with my elderly, frail mother. The local newspaper took many photographs and yesterday, a photo of my mother and me was printed in the paper and our names given in the caption.

Last night my mother called to tell me that a strange man had called her home attempting to reach me and she assumed he saw my photograph in the paper. I should note that my phone number is unlisted, but my mother’s is not and we share the same distinctive last name. When she asked the man’s name, he replied “James”, but stammered and seemed unsure and this made her suspicious. She asked for his last name and he was silent. She told him she would not give him any information about me if he did not provide a full name and he simply said “I’m sorry” and then remained silent, so she hung up and called me to tell me about it.

Shortly after her call, I signed onto Facebook and discovered I had a message from a strange man who was named (pseudonym) “Don Juan Destupid.” His nickname (also a pseudonym) was “Goldmoron.” Obviously it was the same “James” who called my mother’s home. His message simply said “So, you were in the [local paper], huh?” I do not know this man and have never laid eyes on him. He appears to be about 25 to 30 years old. I am 47, but generally am mistaken for about 35. My Facebook profile is mostly hidden to strangers, but does show that I am in a relationship. I am and have very happily been so for nearly a decade.

I ignored the message, blocked “Don Juan” and reset my privacy settings to prevent further messages from people who are not friends or “friends of friends.” I hope this will be the end of the situation, but I remain alarmed that he now knows my elderly mother’s home address, which is listed in the phone book where he got her number. Unless he makes another attempt to contact me, I’m going to drop the matter. I’m actually pretty angry about it, especially since he scared my Mom, but I don’t want to provoke this guy and I may never hear another word.

This incident got me thinking and that leads me to my question, which is: what would motivate a person to do this? Despite rolling it around in my head all day, I can’t think of any way that this could be viewed as a positive or appropriate way to meet someone. Did it not occur to him that bothering a random woman by calling her mother’s home and behaving elusively, followed by sending her a message on Facebook might be viewed as creepy and threatening? Did he think I was going to react to his Facebook message with joy and happiness that I was being hit up by a guy who had just freaked out my Mom? Did he think she wouldn’t tell me about his call? What are your thoughts? What would your reaction be? I truly am curious about the mindset.

[I should add that a quick Google search under his name, nickname and our town revealed his wife’s MySpace page and the existence of his two small children] Nice.

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19 Answers

troubleinharlem's avatar

He sounds like a creeper, and maybe you should have someone stay with your mother if you’re concerned about her safety? Maybe he just thought you were pretty and wanted to start up a conversation, or maybe he just has really, really, really bad social skills. I mean, some young men like women that are older than them… so, who knows?

but I still think he’s just a creeper that you should take action about if he contacts you again.

wundayatta's avatar

He could have liked the way you looked and hoped to meet you. There’s a lot of fantasy that goes on in men’s heads. Perhaps he had a whole story in mind that involved you and he getting together, falling in love, and him leaving his wife to be truly happy with you.

Who knows? He’s the only one who could know for sure, and even he may not be aware of what motivates him.

marinelife's avatar

This ia a totally creepy part of our media-saturated world. Now you know how celebrities feel. At least you only had your 15 minutes of fame.

I would hope that things would die down.

If not, i would contact the police and ask them to speak to this man and tell him to leave you alone.

diavolobella's avatar

I’m not sure how to respond to individual replies on here, being a new jelly. I can appreciate that he might think I’m pretty or something, but I suppose the part I don’t understand is how he wouldn’t consider that his approach is frightening, not alluring. Does that make any sense?

If my Mom had not been drawn into this scenario, I might not be so bothered, but she was and I’m very protective of her. She is 89, a widow who lives alone and just had hip replacement surgery. She did not need the stress and I’m angry he upset her.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@diavolobella : here’s the list here. and no, it doesn’t seem flattering, but remember, he could be thinking with his other head, if you know what I’m saying (not thinking at all about what it would seem like).

wundayatta's avatar

My sister was a radio reporter. Sometimes she got men who want to meet her. They had these idea about who she was and what she looked like. When they met her, she often bore no relation at all to the picture they had in their brains.

@diavolobella To answer your question, if he is involved in his fantasy, then he can’t imagine how you might not respond positively. That’s not how the fantasy goes.

On the other hand, he may have a better sense of reality, and know that you might think it is strange, but call anyway on the chance you might respond positively. Some women do, you know. There are guys wandering around asking strange women if they want to fuck. Some of the women do.

Unless he’s really crazy, he should let it go. You won’t hear from him again. If he’s crazy, he might start trying to find you again. Then you call the police.

diavolobella's avatar

Thanks for the list, troubleinharlem. I saw that, but I still don’t see how to reply like you did to me (@diavolobella). I seem to be overlooking that. Doh

Frenchfry's avatar

That is creepy. One other reason I am not a big fan of Facebook. If worse comes to worse. Keep track of the things he does and get a restraining order.

diavolobella's avatar

@troubleinharlem O.M.G. I’m a total dork. XD Thanks! By the way, younger men liking older women is fine! My SO is ten years younger than me, so I’m all for that! :)

Unfortunately, there is no one who can stay with my Mom. I’m her only family in the state and I commute 100 round trip daily. I talk to her daily and we get together every Tuesday night for a regular dinner date. I try to see her as many other days as possible.

CMaz's avatar


diavolobella's avatar

I have to admit his Facebook message was sort of amusing, content-wise. Sort of his attempt at “How YOU doin?” Not exactly a man of many words or informative introductions.

john65pennington's avatar

Sounds like a cyberspace stalker and you need to make a police report of this incident. this report is your insurance for any future communications this person may send you. also, the police report is good evidence, if this person is arrested in your incident. the police do not mind making this report. the information you gave us, you need to give in a police report. this person may be somone the police are looking for and your information could be very helpful for your safety and the safety of everyone else. make the report.

diavolobella's avatar

@john65pennington Unfortunately, what this man has done so far does not really merit filing a police report and doing so might escalate a situation that will probably never go any further than it already has. All he has done so far is call a phone number one time and send one Facebook message. It’s annoying and creepy, but I wouldn’t call it criminal….yet. Bear in mind that this man has my mother’s address and if I call the police on him for so little reason, I might turn a slightly weird one-time situation into a very dangerous, adversarial one. Since you are former law enforcement, you probably know what I mean about making a minor situation into a major one. It’s just one of those things you have to make a judgment call about.

That said, being fortunate enough to be in the legal field (fortunate for this situation, at least), I have used some resources available to me to check things out and give an informal heads up to some law enforcement friends. I have had his information run for a criminal record with no findings and he has no warrants. I’ve kept a record of the contact so far and if he makes any further attempts to reach me or contact my mother, I definitely will file a report. The police are a valuable resource, but I don’t want to waste their time since I know how they feel about that. I will involve them the minute I feel there is a genuinely credible threat.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Once upon a time then many of us were listed in a public phone book, address included and life went on. Since the internet has become a common household service then people are more and more freaky about stranger contact or long lost people contact to where we’re really alarmed and see mal intent behind everything.

In your shoes then I would have sent him a reply on facebook saying your mother was disturbed by how he made contact without explaining himself to put her at ease. I’d have asked him to explain himself to you and agree to never contact your mother again. From there you can figure him out and decide if you want to block further contact. You never know what people are about, maybe he’s the son of someone who once knew you.

diavolobella's avatar

While it is true that once upon a time people were listed in the phone book and called each other more casually, that day and age is long gone and this man is too young to have lived in it. Back then you couldn’t block your number from someone you called or hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. It was a more innocent, less suspicion-ridden time, but that is because it was much harder to get away with things without being identified. If his intentions were innocent, why did he choose to conceal them both times he made contact?

The reason I see ill intent (or perhaps more appropriately, suspicious intent) behind his actions is because he had more than one opportunity to identify himself and the nature of his business. Instead, he gave my Mom a fake first name and refused to give his last name. If he was on the up and up, or the son of someone who once knew me, he could have simply said so. My Mom would have given him my number or taken his and given it to me. End of story.

Then we have his message to me on Facebook. Here was another opportunity to state his name and his intention, but instead all he said was “So, you were in the paper, huh?” A blinding glimpse of the obvious if ever I’ve heard one. Again, he could have introduced himself and told me why he was contacting me. So, I don’t think my reaction or my Mom’s reaction was unreasonable. It is true that you never know what people are about, until they tell you and he refused to do that. Therein lies the problem. If he had nothing to hide, why did he? I don’t wish to have contact with anyone who isn’t truthful or straightforward, so blocking him was not a hard decision to make. Why would I want to engage someone like that? If he’s bold or deluded enough to go to such trouble to try and contact a perfect stranger because he liked how she looked in a newspaper photo, he might view any contact from me as encouragement and that is a risk not worth taking.

downtide's avatar

Stalker. If he tries to contact you again, contact the police, for your mum’s safety.

Kayak8's avatar

In the day when our addresses and phone numbers were, in fact, listed in the phone book (available to all), you didn’t have google maps that could show exactly where someone lives and the ability to see large plantings and count windows to plan your crime without actually showing up at the residence. We also used to know who our neighbors were and could rely on them to report an out of place vehicle or a person showing a bit too much interest in our residence. Many moms stayed home all day as well and could report back on any unusual activity.

What strikes me most about the posts above is the assumption that you are the target when the target could really be your mom. He can likely tell she is elderly from the photo. He has also been able to ascertain that you do not live with her with his one phone call. The FB interaction helps assure you that YOU are the target of his inquiry, so while you might take steps to protect yourself, your mom just sits there. The FB interaction could conceivably be from someone else completely unrelated to the guy who called your mom. The good news is that the guy who placed the phone call has also been able to determine that your mom is a sharp cookie who will not be easily taken advantage of.

He may be one of those guys selling “roof insurance” or whatever the latest scheme is and he may very well have called your mom because of her picture being in the paper. By asking for you he is able to find out a great deal of information about your mom even in a conversation in which very little factually is spoken by your mom.

If you live close, you may want to stay at your mom’s for a few days. Let her know your concern (my concern) so that she is cautious about her own behavior (answering the door, going to the market, etc.) I would call the local police and tell them of the situation so that if a call comes in from your mom’s number/address, they flat MOVE to get there (I would actually go to the nearest precinct station and ask to speak with someone). You can let them know of the FB encounter as well so they have a name ahead of time. You may also explore getting her an alarm system, even if it is one of those PUSH this button to call the police gizmos. I would certainly have her warn any neighbors with whom she is friendly, just so a few other people ARE paying attention to the situation.

I am not a paranoid person, but my dogs and I are regularly called out by the police to find the remains of those who are taken in by con artists, etc. All too often, if someone had just done a few basic things to protect themselves, the situation would never have been able to be escalated.

flutherother's avatar

He sounds like a poor soul, socially inept and probably lonely. I would be a little wary but not to the point of paranoia. I don’t think you will hear from him again but if you do it might be worth mentioning it to the police. He may have bothered other people in the past and may do so again.

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