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Brooklyn Man Says He Tricked iPhone Thief Using Dating App

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by Adam Harrington, CBSNewYork.com

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Brooklyn man now has his stolen iPhone back – after he claims he tricked the thief into meeting him through his OKCupid dating app.

Nadav Nirenberg, 27, of Park Slope, Brooklyn, wrote on his Facebook page that on the night of New Year’s Eve, he left his iPhone in the back of a cab headed to a gig with his band, and someone picked it up.

“The guy very quickly turned it off and erased voicemails and text messages and e-mails offering a large reward, and saying I would come and pick it up and all that stuff,” Nirenberg said.

But the following morning, Nirenberg said he logged into his personal e-mail account and noticed suspicious activity on his OKCupid profile. Nirenberg said he now has a girlfriend and no longer uses the profile, but someone else had gained access to it and had begun contacting women.

““He would say, like, ‘Hey you’re lookin’ too good,” but he would do like seven girls in a row within two minutes, so it was just kind of clearly trolling for women to respond,” Nirenberg told CBSNewYork.com. And the messages started going out at 6 a.m.

So Nirenberg claims he came up with the perfect plan to ensnare the thief. He says he set up a fake account for a 24-year-old woman named “Jenniffer Rodriguez,” screen name “JennifferInBK,” using a Google stock image of a woman showing cleavage on a webcam.

“Hi I’m Jenny! I just moved to Brooklyn and I’m looking for a man to show me around town just a bit. Lets start by meeting at the bar!” the profile says. Under “the first things people notice about me,” the profile says, “…my butt?” and for what she spends a lot of time thinking about, she wrote, “restaurants to try, bars to check out, other things I probably shouldn’t write online ;)”

'JennifferInBK' OKCupid Profile

‘JenniferInBK’ is a fake profile set up by Nadav Nirenberg to ensnare the thief who stole his iPhone and began using his OKCupid app. (Credit: OKCupid)

Nirenberg said he deliberately answered match questions for “Jenny” to indicate she was interested in casual sex.

His plan was to lure the thief to his own apartment and get the iPhone back. The plan worked perfectly, and the thief was headed to what he thought was “Jenny’s” apartment on New Year’s night, Nirenberg said.

“A few hours later he was headed to ‘Jenniffer’s’ apartment for a relaxing bottle of wine and a good time,” Nirenberg wrote on his Facebook page. “What a lucky night for him.”

Nirenberg provided a transcript he says is of the message exchange between the thief using his profile and “JennifferInBK:”

Thief: “U wanna meet?”

JennifferInBK: “Yeah I kinda do ;) I’m a bit nervous since my hair is longer than my picture, hope you don’t mind if I look slightly different haha. Any ideas where to meet?”

Thief: “No I don’t mind. No I don’t have no Ida. Do u??

Thief: “Hay that pic u see on my profile it not my. It my friend pic.”

“JennifferInBK” goes on to suggest a bar near “her” home, or “I guess you could come to my place, though I think the bar might be a better idea.” They eventually agree to meet at “JennifferInBK’s” home, and the other person offers to bring some “win” (sic).

Thief: Ok can I have ur phone number?

JennifferInBK: Haha who talks on the phone anymore? Lets just chat here it’s super fun. I’ll make sure I’m around to chat while you’re on the way over.

Thief: Yah

JennifferInBK: Yay! So I’ll be ready for you at 7, can’t wait

Thief: So what u going to make for me. Will u let me to kiss u?

JennifferInBK: Haha I didn’t know we’d be having dinner. I cook some amazing roasted chicken…

Thief: Will u give me a kiss:)

JennifferInBK: Well as I said I’ve been lonely and don’t have a bf ;) So lets have some wine and dinner and see where it takes us (I don’t see why not)

The conversation continues until the person with his iPhone says he is outside. Nirenberg said he did not reveal his apartment number, but did allow the other person inside his building and met him in the stairwell.

When the man arrived, Nirenberg said he popped out behind him and calmly handed him $20 for the iPhone, which was in his hand. Holding a hammer, Nirenberg said he told the man police were on the way.

Nirenberg wrote that the man was “was all dressed up, had a bottle of wine and stank of cologne. As he was walking away I was surprised I said ‘You smell great tho(ugh).'”

Nirenberg said he did call police before he executed his plan, and said police advised him to handle the situation differently.

The local precinct’s response was, “We definitely suggest that there’s a uniformed officer there, and the best thing that you can do is call 911 10 minutes beforehand,” Nirenberg said.

But Nirenberg emphasized that while he wanted his iPhone back, he did not want the man arrested or to have to answer police questions.

“So I just basically did it on my own, which, of course, I don’t recommend,” he said. “And I’m not going to pretend that confronting anyone, even if you’re 99 percent sure that they’re not dangerous, is obviously a good idea.”

Nirenberg said he did not have a lot of weapons around, but he picked up the hammer just for his own peace of mind.

“I never even raised the hammer to my midsection. It stayed down at my side the entire time,” he said, “and to be honest, I’m not sure if he ever actually saw it at all.”

His roommate was also behind a locked door in case anything went wrong.

Nirenberg said he did not know the identity of the person who took his iPhone, but suspected it was the livery cab driver. But in contacting the livery cab company, he found out he and his band were the driver’s last pickup for the night when he lost his phone, and the driver was not working the following day.

He emphasized more than once that he did not want to have the man arrested or prosecuted.

“It’s not like he pickpocketed me. I’m the one who left the phone, and this is just like a sad cabbie who kept it. Keeping the phone is the wrong thing to do, but it’s not like he’s some hardened criminal who deserves to be off the streets or lose his job or anything like that,” he said.

After texting back and forth with the man for two hours as “Jenny,” Nirenberg said he concluded that he was “not a bad guy or anything like that. He’s just not the smartest guy.”

In his Facebook post, Nirenberg marveled at the lack of common sense.

“Dude thought that a 24-year-old girl who lives alone would invite a complete stranger over for wine. He also believed ‘Jennifer’ wouldn’t care about ‘Hay the pic u see on my profile it not my pic it my friend pic,’” Nirenberg wrote.

He said “Jenniffer” received more than 30 OKCupid messages in approximately five hours of existence. He took the profile down after he got his phone back, but said he contacted OKCupid to reinstate it — without the racy picture — once the story took off.

Nirenberg said he posted an account of the incident to Facebook about half an hour after it happened, and “it was shared and liked and commented on far more than anything I’ve done.”

He also posted the account to Reddit, as did a friend who is a fan of his band. The post quickly received more than 2,000 up-votes, Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg said he would have used a simpler method such as the “Find My iPhone” app to get his phone back, but he didn’t have such an app installed at the time. He has since installed the app on his iPhone.

Nirenberg is a trombonist, sousaphonist, bandleader and composer. He plays in the band Streetlight Manifesto.

OKCupid did not immediately return an e-mail request for comment from CBSNewYork.com.

What would you do if you caught a thief using your dating app? Leave your comments below…