The wild success of “Pokémon Go” is having some unexpected — and unpleasant — consequences.
The augmented reality smartphone game, from Niantic and Nintendo, involves users travelling around the real world in search of pokémon and items, as well as battling other players.
But opportunistic criminals have been taking advantage of the game’s mechanics to lure unsuspecting players into traps and then mug them, police say.
The O’Fallon Police Department in Missouri, USA announced on Sunday that it has arrested four people it suspects of using “Pokémon Go” to track down players before stealing their valuables.
According to USA Today, the four suspects — all teens — are allegedly behind 10 or 11 robberies. The suspects reportedly had a handgun. “Many of you have asked how the app was used to rob victims, the way we believe it was used is you can add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players,” the police department said in a statement on Facebook. “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 victims would travel to the pokestops in the hope of catching pokémon — only to be robbed at gunpoint by the suspects, police say.
This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Philadelphia police also said on Twitter on Sunday that there has been a “string of armed robberies perpetrated by suspects who targeted their victims using Pokémon Go.”
Be mindful on what you play online, A String of armed robberies perpetrated by suspects who targeted their victims using Pokémon Go. RH
— PPD 35TH District (@PPD35Dist) July 11, 2016
And these muggings are far from the only surreal consequence of the game’s success.
A man from Massachusetts says that the game has designated his home a “gym” — resulting in players loitering outside of his home, standing outside or pulling up in their cars to register their locations there. People have been accidentally injured while walking round staring at their phone hunting for pokémon. Police in Crewe, Virginia have reported “suspicious activity” stemming from “a large amount of foot traffic in the town, with “individuals … walking aimlessly in circles while staring at their phones.”
And a teen from Wyoming found a dead body in a river after she hopped a fence in her search for more pokémon.
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