‘How did you get my son’s number?’
Why it’s important to teach your kids to be vigilant, even against seemingly harmless sales calls and text messages from people pretending to know youBy Marina A.S. Benipayo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
My son forwarded to me a text message by someone from realty sales. It was addressed to my first name, but sent to my son’s number.
He said the person even called him and asked about an invitation to the open house the real estate company was having.
I wondered how on earth the person got my son’s mobile number, when my son doesn’t even mind his phone most of the time. What baffled me was that the message began with, “Good day, Ms Marina.” After a few seconds, this person called me and introduced himself. Before he could even get to the next spiel, I asked him, “How were you able to get my son’s number?”
He replied that it came from a database. I then asked how he got my number, and he replied that he got it from my son when he called him. Suddenly, my “mamma bear mode” set in.
I asked: “So how did you know my name, when you used my son’s mobile number to get mine?”
His answer: “Uh, I can’t remember, ma’am.”
I ended the conversation with, “Ah, you can’t remember? Then remember this. Never call me or my son again. What you did was very unethical, and you will make a lot of parents angry if you continue to do that.”
I wouldn’t know how other parents would react to that incident if it happened to them. But, to me, it felt like my son’s privacy had been violated. I might be able to tolerate countless text messages on condo sales, weight-loss products, bank loans, SIM card sales, gifts or cash prizes from insurance companies, and even from mysterious relatives abroad missing you so much. I can simply ignore them anyway if I weren’t interested.
But there’s something about strangers getting hold of our child’s mobile number that really ticks us off. And what made me even more angry was when I asked my son why he gave the person my number, he said, “Sorry Mamma, he sounded like he knew you.”
The young agent apologized, but apologies are overused solutions to habitual mistakes. I didn’t get disappointed with what the agent did per se, but with the system that allows him to do this. And I am raising the concern so that it doesn’t become customary practice as the next generation of agents comes in.
Instead of generating sales, these agents compromise the image of the company they represent. Ignorance is not an excuse, although I strongly think that good, ethical practices like sensitivity and respect for privacy should be included in the orientation of these young agents. And if employers say that they have, indeed, included them, well, they have failed in communicating them properly. Just as security guards become targets of complaints for not doing their jobs, these agents will experience the same thing, and it won’t be fair to them, too.
I understand that sales is a high-pressure job, but sales agents should be able to discern that most people they blindly contact have their family’s security to protect.
I might create other e-mail accounts or get another SIM card to avoid all these nuisance. Such actions might work for some time; however, companies find ways to get hold of the database where that information is stored. Some of these firms also offer free items in exchange for your time and contact details.
Adding insult to injury, when I asked the agent which database it came from, he said he couldn’t remember. But of course, even if they knew, they wouldn’t tell you. Hence, they have access to your personal information; and you will be bewildered on which source they got it from. No loss for them, but on your part, you lose some sense of security.
You might have gone through the same thing or recall similar situations where, as a parent, you’re caught off-guard and are suddenly worried about your kids. Even when they were small, I’ve always warned Mark and Josh about the age-old rule: never talk to strangers. Why, even we adults fall prey at some point to people we should not have trusted in the first place. We can’t guard our kids all the time, but we can constantly remind them how to properly respond to such situations.
We constantly think about our children’s welfare once they step out the front door to go to school or work or do errands for us, so whenever we say “take care” to them, we say it with utmost sincerity. My son was in school when the man called him, the reason my mamma bear mode set in. It may be a universal thing to say, but yes, I am quite protective of my children.
Although I had discussed it with them before, I used what happened as a concrete example of the importance of being always on guard regarding text messages or phone calls. If they do not recognize the number of an incoming call or text, they can ignore it. Or, if for some reason, they answer the call, they should not give out personal information such as full names, contact numbers, e-mail details and home addresses.
One of the best ways to protect our families is to teach our kids to be extra vigilant. We allow them to enjoy their youth as much as they can, but we also have the responsibility of shielding them from the tough realities of the world. Maybe at dinnertime we can discuss this issue with our kids more, find out what they think about it, tell them what we know—and come to an agreement on how to tackle it the best way we can.