BBB: Watch Out For Pokémon Scams

Aug 2, 2016
Originally published on August 2, 2016 4:18 pm

  The rapid success and growth of Pokémon Go is not being lost on those who are busy finding ways to go phishing, and cash in at players’ expense.

The operative word here is “free.” But some scammers are working to convince players that there is a cost involved.

“Especially if they have die-hard fans that are on their phones, they’re going to possibly get an email that says ‘I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the game; but now you’re going to have to pay for it,’” says Tammy Ward at the Better Business Bureau in Pensacola.

The standard pitch is an email claiming you owe $12.99 per month to help them buy more powerful servers -- and your bank account will be frozen if you don’t pay up.

“Totally bogus; it is a free app that you can get,” Ward says. “The other thing to watch out for is there still could be some fake apps. So they want to make sure they’re actually getting the real thing.”

There’s a link to click on in the email to log into an app store and purchase the “full version” of the game. But Ward says that’s not part of the official app store run by Ninatic Labs – Pokémon GO’s originator. There also the possibility that downloading this and other scams can result in malware on your phone or mobile device getting into your contacts and other information.

“We keep so much on our phones these days, even passwords to other information,” says Ward. “So you want to be really careful and make sure you have an anti-virus on your phone, as well as your regular computer.”

As long as the app remains popular, scammers will invent new ways to fool players. It’s the latest in a long line of phishing schemes, but there are ways to spot them. First, be wary of surprise emails that have links or attachments.

“If it’s coming from a company, it should be a company’s actual name in the email address,” Ward says. “Sometimes it will not have a company address on it – it will have something else or even an individual person’s name – it won’t be a real address.”

Be watchful of generic emails, which scammers use to cast a wide net by including little or no information. The BBB’s Tammy Ward says that especially goes for messages from companies with which you’ve never done business.

More information is available at bbb.org, which reminds everyone:

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” said Ward. 

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