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Robbers target Pokémon Go players in Missouri

TechCrunch TechCrunch 11/07/2016 Lucia Maffei

Catching them all could be risky. Four men in O’Fallon, Missouri, have been arrested on charges of first-degree robbery and armed criminal action after having used the popular gaming app Pokémon Go to target other users, lure them into isolated areas and rob them.

Shane Michael Baker, 18, Brett William Miller, 17, and Jamine James D. Warner, 18 have been charged by the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Bond was set in the amount of $100,000. The fourth suspect, who is a juvenile, was transferred to the Juvenile Justice Center in St. Charles, Missouri.

Released in the U.S. less than a week ago, Pokémon Go allows gamers to pursue their quest of pocket monsters in the real world, by using the smartphone camera to show images of Pokémon in the exact place where people are playing, including their bedrooms, cars or famous landmarks. The app, which added $9 billion to Nintendo’s value, was developed by Niantic.

The four teens were taken into custody on Sunday morning following a call to 911, according to the O’Fallon Missouri Police Department. After having targeted a pedestrian using the geolocation feature of the app, the four men — all residents of St. Charles County — pulled him over and threatened him with a handgun from the inside of a black BMW. According to another statement from the police, “they all had the knowledge and intent of committing a robbery using a firearm.”

Officers stopped the BMW near a CVS lot, where an occupant tried to discard the handgun from the car. Further investigation revealed that there have been similar armed robberies in the area over the last couple of days with a similar car.

“The way we believe the app was used,” the department wrote in a Facebook post, “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 San Francisco Police Department released a list of guidelines to safely play with Pokémon Go. And the NYPD tweeted a reminder not to play with the app while driving.

St. Charles County declined to provide more details on the Missouri case aside from the statements released by the O’Fallon Police Department.

We’ve reached out to Niantic for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

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