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Pokémon Go Users Become Targets Of Armed Robberies: Missouri Police

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Instead of catching Pokémons, armed robbers in Missouri used the newly released game Pokémon Go to lure in oblivious players, the state police reported on Sunday, July 10.

The much-coveted augmented reality game, which received high fanfare during its release last week, lets players catch digital Pokémons with the use of a smartphone app. Players can venture into real-world locations to "catch 'em all."

But some criminals have reportedly exploited the game's features and used them to take advantage of other users. On July 10, the O'Fallon Police Department reported on Facebook that four people have allegedly used the game to target victims in a series of armed robberies in the St. Louis area.

"It is believed these suspects targeted their victims through the Pokémon Go smart phone application," the police wrote on the Facebook post.

What Happened?

The O'Fallon Police Department caught four suspects and recovered a handgun after responding to a call on robbery at 2 a.m. on July 10.

The suspects were local residents aged 16 to 18 and were riding a black BMW in a CVS parking lot.

The armed robbers appeared to have monitored the game's map and took advantage of the player-triggered, geolocation feature that attracts Pokémon to a certain place for a short period of time.

The geolocation feature helped them figure out when potential victims would likely show up in isolated locations, including parking lots.

Sgt. Bill Stringer of the O'Fallon Police Department said the occupants of the nabbed car even attempted to discard the handgun out of the car when another officer approached the vehicle.

In the end, adult suspects were charged with first degree robbery, a felony, and received a bond set at $100,000, Sgt. Stringer said.

At a certain level of Pokémon Go, players can congregate at local landmarks to form teams and engage in virtual battles.

Meanwhile, another spokesperson for the department said criminals could add a beacon to a Pokéstop to attract more players.

"[T]hey were using the app to locate [people] standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in," the spokesperson told The Guardian.

Fair Warning

Pokémon Go is a dream come true for avid fans of the franchise, but officials warned users to be cautious when alerting strangers of your geolocation.

The app also warns its players to keep aware of their surroundings during their hunt for Pokémons. However, a few days after the game's release, reports of bizarre incidents related to the game have been surfacing.

Players have reportedly injured themselves because they were walking around with their eyes locked on the screen of their smartphones, according to The Washington Post.

In Wyoming, a 19-year-old Pokémon Go user on the hunt for one of the digital creatures discovered a dead body in a river instead.

On July 8, Shayla Wiggins' pursuit led her to a bridge where she jumped over the fence and then saw a corpse. The Fremont County sheriff's office is currently investigating the case.

Photo: Eduardo Woo | Flickr

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