A couple has sued a Toyota dealership for stealing an intimate photograph off the husband’s smartphone and uploading it to a website for swingers.
In January 2015, Tim Gautreaux, 29, a pastor at Hope Fellowship in Frisco, went to Texas Toyota with his wife Claire, 27, who works in retail management.
Tim had saved his pre-approved financing document for a new car on his smartphone. The salesperson helping the couple asked to borrow the smartphone so that he could show the information to his manager.
Five minutes later, the salesperson returned and handed the phone back to Tim. To complete the purchase, the couple went to see the dealership’s finance manager, who asked to see the financing document.
That’s when Tim noticed something was wrong.
When he went to pull up the document, he saw that an intimate photo of his wife had recently been selected. Some additional digging on his part revealed that someone had sent the photo of his wife to a couple based in Garland and a swingers’ website.
Claire was absolutely mortified. As quoted by NBC 5:
“My husband took a photograph of me in a private moment in our home. I never imagined anyone else would see it, let along that they would send my picture to an email address associated with swingers. We were at a Toyota dealership to buy a car and not to share anything about our lives with the people there.”
The couple called the police. Investigators arrived on the scene and learned that Matt Thomas, the dealership’s owner, had emailed the images to himself before he uploaded it to his profile on a swingers’ website.
Thomas deleted those emails, but an app installed on Tim’s phone managed to recover them.
Local law enforcement arrested Thomas in November 2015 on computer security charges. He posted bail shortly thereafter and is now due back in court on 29 December.
In the meantime, the Gautreauxs have suedThomas, Texas Toyota of Grapevine, and Toyota Motor North America citing intrusion and negligence, among other crimes.
They’re demanding one million dollars in damages.
I would be surprised if Toyota doesn’t settle with the Gautreauxs before the case makes it to trial. No car manufacturer wants that kind of negative publicity to be dragged out in court, even if it pertains to just one salesperson at one of their car dealerships.
Now let’s be clear about something. The young couple has every right to feel violated by Thomas and Texas Toyota. But as their lawyer says in the press briefing above, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. That’s because even in professional situations like buying a car, you never know who the other person really is on the other side of the table.
With that in mind, if you have saved data that you don’t want others to see, it’s a good idea to NEVER hand over access of your smartphone or computer to anyone you don’t trust unless it’s the manufacturer for a technical issue. It might be more inconvenient to, say, print out a pre-approved financing document than to save it on a phone, but that type of measure could prevent incidents like this from happening.