Experts warn against harmful strangers with “number neighbors” trend

(WMTV) -- Experts are warning against the “number neighbors” phone trend circulating the nation.

The Twitter-bred trend may explain the texts or calls people have been getting from strangers whose phone numbers are a digit apart from theirs. Although a conversation with a stranger can be brushed aside as a gag, many are concerned, especially when children and teens are on the receiving end.

“The foresight of our youngsters isn’t that of the aptitude of an adult,” Lieutenant Bob Berg of the DeForest Police Department, said. “They don’t particularly grasp who they could be speaking to on the other end.”

He warns the stranger could be a predator looking to solicit inappropriate behavior.

Sarah Ghee, the chief operating officer at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, agreed, saying that she would tell children and teens not to participate at all. Instead, she says, they should have a talk with their parents.

Her advice to parents navigating this topic is to let the kids do the talking. She suggests beginning the conversation with, “This sounds pretty easy and safe, but how could it go wrong? Give me some examples.”

Some of the teenagers at the Boys and Girls Club said they have not participated and will not participate in the trend. Aidan Nunez-Clark, an eighth-grader, added that he would work with his parents to prevent any potential dangers.

“It’s o.k. to have some privacy, but (parents) have to make sure (their) kids are not doing anything that (they) wouldn’t do.”

DeForest police have not had any cases related to “number neighbors.” The lieutenant said that he is relying on active participation of parents and the partnership of the community to locate those who seek to do harm.