Police warn about criminals using Pokemon Go to steal from users

Monday, July 11, 2016
Concord PD warns about criminals using PokemonGo to steal from users
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PokemonGo hasn't been out for long, but criminals are already using it to easily steal from users.

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- If you had to dodge people looking at their phones Monday morning during your daily routine, there's a good chance they were playing Pokemon Go.

"I was on my way to Starbucks and opening my phone to catch some Pokemon. I actually caught two Pokemon on the way here," said Adrian Calmerian, a Concord resident.

Even the commute has turned into a playground.

"My boyfriend played it on BART on his way to work and picked up 10 or so different Pokemon, which is a lot more different ones than I have been able to find, so I am a little jealous," said Aneka Bean, a Pleasant Hill resident.

The game is a new mobile game app. It was created by a San Francisco company and has quickly become the number one downloaded free app.

RELATED: Can Pokemon Go be harmful to your health?

Pokemon Go is an "augmented reality" game that allows users to capture, train and battle Pokemon who appear in the real world. It's like a scavenger hunt: you have to walk to places to catch Pokemons. And players can pick up supplies at real-world landmarks that serve as "PokeStops" in the game.

One benefit people are noticing is players are getting some exercise rather than sitting at home playing.

But the wildly popular game has many Bay Area police departments concerned.

Criminals are already using it to easily steal from users. Three men robbed players at the locations in Missouri and in Wyoming, a teenager found a man's body at the site of a Pokemon.

Police said they believed the suspects use the game to "add a beacon to a PokeStop to lure more players" and then used the app to locate victims.

Locally, the Concord police station was a PokeStop. The police say they are happy to see people at the station, but they also noticed people are not paying attention to their surroundings.

More minor problems include players looking down at the phone while walking and not paying attention.

"I was walking around with them, they were showing me how to play. And I guess when you are playing the game it warns you to stay vigilant, stay aware of your surroundings. You can see a lot of people are just focused in on their phone and walking around. That could lead to something more, that they're going to areas that aren't known. Or if they have a criminal who's looking for a cellphone or an iPad," Cpl. Christopher Blakely with the Concord Police Department.

So, they put up a warning on Facebook encouraging safe play time.

"Be smart. Always be aware of your surroundings. We support cautious and responsible play and people having fun. We just want to make sure that everyone stays safe," he said. "A criminal looking for iPad or iPhone can quickly grab it and take off. We wanted to let public know this happens."

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