As I continue to plow through the series “THE WIRE,” I find more and more relatable info concerning how the authorities track their prey. And watching Stringer switch out SIM cards on his phone brought a curious event to mind.
One of the first things I did after the feds paid me a visit was to shut off my home phone, ditch my cell, and get a burner. I wasn’t sure if my phones had been tapped but it was a reasonable assumption that if they hadn’t, they were about to be – and I should switch them out. Not that there was a lot to hear at that point. I’d stopped posting Backpage and selling the Village Voice. So in essence except for the blog, I was out of business as an advertising agency.
With a little research, I found a ghetto type check cashing place that sold nameless burners remarkably cheap. And every three months, I’d buy a new SIM card and change the number. Really, I had no idea if I was “wired up” or not. But it seemed like the prudent thing to do. If the feds had a hankering to listen in to my boring conversations, I could at least make them earn it. At times, I’d stay on the phone with idiots (like the Poonjab Princess) for extended periods of time just to bore them to death if they were listening.
Well anyway…to the point. On exactly the third anniversary of “the visit,” I heard a tapping on my door. Since the day the feds came a knockin’, I don’t answer. Period. Unless you call out and identify yourself as the super or exterminator (both friends whose voices I know well), ain’t nobody home. A lesson learned the hard way if you will. The last time I answered it cost me dearly (dollar wise) when I innocently answered a few questions to be a nice guy to two federal agents.
Once the knocking had stopped and several minutes had passed, I exited my apartment for the supermarket and found a note pasted to my door. Written on what was clearly a piece of office supply type paper, the note read “Hi Billy. This is Angela. I used to run ads with you. I forgot your number and came over to talk to you. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx so we can talk.”
Bells and whistles began shrieking in my head. And I’m thinking “I don’t know anybody named Angela except for a girl down at the Saturday soup kitchen who I’d written about on the blog. Very few escorts ever knew where I lived – and I’m not listed in any phone book. And no hooker would leave a note on what was obviously a piece of paper from an office. This is the feds hoping that I’ll call the number so they can tap my phone. The burner thing worked. They’re off the wire and want back on!”
I picked up my public phone (the phone the feds already had) and called my old cab-driver buddy in Scranton, Pa. “John! Call this number and tell me what happens.” It turns out the number on the piece of paper was shut off! Which said to me nobody’s gonna call a dead number except one guy: me! And then my cell number would be revealed!
Watching THE WIRE has once again confirmed all my suspicions. Angela, my ass. The feds thought I’d get a hard-on and call the fake number hoping to get laid. Didn’t happen. Yeah, I’m stupid. But I do learn from my mistakes. I didn’t call the number.