A creepy T-Mobile employee stole nude photos of a young Queens woman as she went to the store to trade her phone last September, a shocking new lawsuit claims – as legal experts and attorneys fear a surge in what is considered ” modern” is called “Spanner.”
Karen Mun, now 24, waited patiently as the Northern Boulevard store clerk took her device to a locked back room to see if she was “eligible” for the trade-in, but when he emerged, her heart stopped, after she caught a glimpse of his cell phone.
“I saw his photo app open with a bunch of my photos,” Mun told The Post, referring to dozens of intimate pictures of herself that she had stored on her device.
“I felt like a part of me had been stolen,” she said.
“I wanted to scream.”
Mun, a nail technician born and raised in Flushing, described the incident in a lawsuit she filed against T-Mobile on Thursday alleging the company was negligent in hiring, training and monitoring employees and has a created an environment that violated their privacy.
The lawsuit alleges that T-Mobile is well aware of employees stealing sensitive customer information and hasn’t done enough to stop it, as Mun’s case is not an isolated one – it has happened numerous times in the past.
In November 2015, a T-Mobile employee downloaded a couple’s intimate videos when they wanted to upgrade their phone, and in June 2017, an employee emailed a customer’s intimate video to himself, the lawsuit alleges .
In November 2018, a T-Mobile employee in Mays Landing, NJ, played an intimate video of a customer to himself and other store associates, and in December 2020, an employee stole a customer’s identity and accessed his bank account in Dartmouth, Massachusetts Conditions.
News reports are revealing a number of other similar incidents across the country, occurring not only at T-Mobile stores but also at other retail outlets operated by major wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon.
Many of the stories reflect what happened to Mun.
When she first arrived at the store on September 23, the clerk told her he needed to hook her phone up to a computer in a back room to see if she was eligible for the trade-in, and she obligated because she thought so , the request is a normal part of the process, according to Mun and the lawsuit.
“What could possibly go wrong?” she remembered thinking.
Some time later, the employee showed up and said he couldn’t access her device because it was locked.
“He gave me a piece of paper with a pen that he prepared from the back and … said, ‘Listen, I need you to write your passcode on this paper for me so I can unlock it on the back and plug it into the computer to see ‘Is your phone approved by the company,'” Mun recalled.
“I thought, okay, that’s right. When my phone is locked he can’t connect it to a computer because you have to unlock your phone to connect it to a computer. So I was like, ‘Okay, here’s my passcode.’ He’s a worker, he’s a professional… he’s just doing his job.”
But when Mun discovered her private photos and realized the request was a ploy to steal her nude pictures, she confronted him and he admitted taking them, her lawsuit alleges.
“I trusted him because I never thought an employee would take advantage of his job and do that to someone, it was just so crazy for me,” Mun told the Post.
“Even though this happened months ago, I still think about it every day. It’s something that keeps me up at night. I’m super scared. Sometimes…I go outside and think, “What if this person saw these photos?”
Mun said after the first incident she couldn’t sleep, was struggling at work and now suffers from depression and anxiety.
“It’s so embarrassing. Even though I’m the victim here, I feel like I did something wrong by just allowing this to happen to me,” she said.
“It’s really hard to put into words how I feel.”
Andrew Stengel, Mun’s attorney, said there are probably thousands of other people who have been victimized in the same way who are simply unaware.
“It was lucky that the guy’s phone screen was facing Karen and the app was open,” Stengel said.
“For every Karen and the other victims, there are probably 100 or 1,000 people who are unaware that their data, intimate pictures and financial information have been stolen. You just don’t know.
“T-Mobile likes to brag about its coverage area when it should focus on adequately protecting subscriber privacy.”
In a statement, a T-Mobile spokesman said the employee who took Mun’s pictures was “disconnected” from T-Mobile “immediately” after the incident.
“We take the privacy of our customers very seriously. It’s against our policy,” the spokesman said.
“We cannot share any further details.”
The company declined to answer what measures, if any, it has taken to prevent such events from happening again.
While non-consensual picture sharing, sometimes referred to as revenge porn, has long been a problem and is illegal in most states, it usually occurs between intimate partners and not strangers.
Lindsey Song, co-chair of New York’s Cyber Abuse Task Force and associate director of the Courtroom Advocates Project at the Sanctuary for Families, said infiltrating a stranger’s personal device is the “next level” of gender-based violence and sexual harassment.
“Since cell phones and our entire lives are on cell phones, laptops and electronic devices, I think unfortunately this is the next frontier of these things being used to create gender-based violence and sexual harassment,” Song said.
“I think it shows the ease with which these images can be accessed and transferred from someone’s phone or laptop or any other electronic device they have without them knowing… there are so many possibilities with Airdrop and even remote.” -Bluetooth file sharing services that wouldn’t leave any kind of trail.”
dr Marina Sorochinski, an investigative psychologist who studies behavioral patterns in violent sex crimes, likened the act to a modern-day “peeping tom.”
“In these crimes, including those that occur in intimate relationships, the medium changes, but the basic psychology is the same. People use different means to achieve the same goals: control, power, and sexual gratification,” explained Sorochinski, a professor at St. John’s University.
“Right now, criminals are using this kind of modern technology and modern ways and modern media to get the same things. The legal system, the criminal justice system, are trying to catch up with what the criminals are now using again to commit the same types of crimes. It’s no different. It’s just a different mode.”
While unlawfully distributing intimate images has been a crime in New York since 2019, Song said officials need to do a better job of enforcing the law and raising awareness that such acts are a crime.
While Mun considered calling the police after the incident, she didn’t and didn’t realize what happened to her was a crime until she later investigated it.
Carrie Goldberg, a high-profile attorney whose practice focuses on representing survivors of digital sex crimes, said Mun’s incident raises a lot of chilling questions about privacy in a digital world.
“These devices break down all the time. Our screens break and we need to get them fixed, and if we can’t trust the companies that fix them, how can we trust those companies and expect them not to access the same content remotely? she asked.
“We trust them with so much of our personal data, whether it’s on the physical device or in the cloud. There needs to be more of a Bill of Rights. If anyone comes into that store they should be told there should be a sign or something saying we would never take this phone out of your sight,” she continued.
“No customer can tell that something unusual is going on.”
As for Mun, she hopes that telling her story can help protect others from being bullied the same way she was.
“I want everyone to know how big the problem is. I really want to shed light and achieve justice for other women or men,” Mun said.
“I don’t really have the power to really stop this from happening, but I can stop it from happening to a lot of other people.”
https://nypost.com/2022/05/19/the-modern-day-peeping-tom-how-creeps-steal-nudes-off-phones/ How creeps steal nude photos from cellphones