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Armed crooks use Pokemon Go to lure and rob victims

Jul 11, 20164 mins
Data and Information SecurityMobile AppsSecurity

Pokemon Go players were lured to locations, then robbed at gunpoint. And that is just one of many strange but true stories as Pokemon Go hysteria heats up.

It’s not only cyber thugs interested in the Pokemon Go app, but crooks in real life as well. Armed robbers were reportedly using the app’s geolocation feature to lure victims to secluded locations.

The “robbery part made sense” to the cops, but not the augmented reality game in which players walk around in the real world searching for Pokemon. Players can drop a Lure model in a real world location, which last for 30 minutes to attract players to that location. O’Fallon, Missouri Police Sgt. Phil Hardin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “that ‘younger, geeky officers’ had to fill in their colleagues about some of what the victim was describing.”

“All of the elements of a robbery were all there, so that part was easy, but the more in-depth discussion that followed was like, ‘What?’” Hardin said. “You really can’t make this stuff up.”

“Using the geolocation feature of the Pokemon Go app, the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims,” explained the O’Fallon Police Department. “The way we believe it was used is you can add a beacon to a Pokestop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate people standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.”

The O’Fallon police received a 911 call around 2 a.m. on Sunday after victims had been robbed at gunpoint by four people in a black BMW. Four people, ranging in ages from 16 to 18, who are suspected of being involved “in nearly a dozen robberies in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County” were arrested.

Hardin called the app great “for getting people off the couch,” but he warned “it can be used for nefarious reasons, also.”

Pokemon Go to overtake Twitter in daily active users

That is far from the only strange but true story being reported since Pokemon Go launched on Android and iOS less than a week ago. Pokemon Go is predicted to have even more daily active users than Twitter by Tuesday.

Pokemon Go hysteria

There have been a flood of players complaining about sore legs after hunting Pokemon, as well as twisted ankles and trips to the emergency room. People have reportedly walked into trees and glass revolving doors because they are so busy watching the game on their smartphone screen.

Australian police advised players that it is “a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street.” The police asked players not to come into their station, which has been marked as a Pokestop, since players can gain the pokeballs without entering the building.

A medical school in Arizona issued a similar warning, advising students to approach the Pokemon that had invaded the campus “with caution.” Students were also told to “remember to look up from your phone to prevent tripping or running into something.”

Campus police at an unnamed college were accused of “abuse of power” after one officer tried to kick all Pokemon Go players off the campus. This occurred after two men attempted to break into a building and, when caught, blamed it on trying to catch a Pokemon.

The Washington State Department of Transportation asked gamers to play responsibly. “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel.”

Although some businesses are reportedly using the app to lure customers, a 911 dispatcher reportedly documented a complaint about a suspicious guy who had been walking around aimlessly outside an entrance as he played the Pokemon game. Some individuals, such as a man who lives in what used to be a church, have become overrun with loiters when their houses become Pokemon Go gyms.

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, sent an email to staff members warning them that Pokemon gamers have entered secured areas trying to get Pokemon characters. Some people don’t need to wander into secure areas at hospitals, such as the man who caught a Pidgey near the bed where his wife was having a baby.

Dead body discovered by teenager hunting for a water Pokemon

Last Friday, a teenager in rural Wyoming was trying to catch a “water Pokemon” and nearly tripped on a man’s dead body. Shayla Wiggins, 19, told CNN Money, “I guess I was only paying attention to my phone and where I was walking.” She was “pretty scared and shaken” after seeing the body in the river where the water was about three feet deep. Wiggins called police, who suspect the man drowned there.

There’s no telling what all will transpire as the Pokemon Go hysteria sweeps across the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Can you imagine what might happen after the game is released worldwide?

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.