While technological safeguards are helpful in preventing visitors from stealing their phones and accessing money apps around the city, the most effective barrier, according to those who have studied the phenomenon more closely, is old distrust.
Twin Cities law enforcement, ATM app operators and banks say identity protection tools are available, but it's up to smartphone users to take any necessary precautions. went to downtown and other parts of Minneapolis. A few months earlier, he was arrested and charged with the crimes.
Law enforcement officials said these thieves used various forms of persuasion, including indiscriminate violence, to lure unsuspecting and often intoxicated victims off their cellphones, then drained thousands of dollars from their operating programs.
Criminal charges against members of the 12-member gang revealed a variety of tactics — some simple, some sneaky, some downright violent.
A man handed his phone to someone who wanted to make a call. Another was asked for his phone so he could be added to his social media accounts. The price includes a phone and $1200.
Another victim handed over his phone on a city center street and when he reclaimed it he was attacked and left bleeding from the head on the pavement.
When the long-running program was suspended in September, more than $275,000 was allegedly stolen from accounts and the phones were routinely sold to "iPhone Man," who shipped them to buyers across the country.
"Most of these victims left a bar and struck up a conversation with a stranger they met on the street," said Donald Cheung, a special agent for the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehensions (BCA) that oversees the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force. "These people are very smart in all kinds of situations."
Victims of this type of crime "are mostly young people in their 20s, not older people and women," said Police Lieutenant Mark Clocco of downtown Minneapolis' 1st Ward.
"That's the person we need to contact," he said. "If it's not on a TikTok video, we're having trouble reaching them."
Clocaux said heavy drinking can give these young people what he calls "liquid courage" that breaks the warning barrier.
“Women have always understood that walking alone is not safe.
Don't expect a resurgence in cell phone theft and spam. The BCA and the police warn pub-goers not to become easy targets for app-based payday thieves.
"People in Minnesota are good-natured and want to trust people and help them," Cheung said. "[But] we can all be more careful when talking to a stranger, and especially when handing the phone to them."
In particular, people who go out for fun "should avoid exposure and stay in populated areas," Kloko said. If you're alone, put your phone down and watch.
You don't have to be holding the phone."
Not using a smartphone after exiting a nightclub can be difficult for those who text Uber or Lyft for a ride and then track the driver's route to the meeting point.
Cheung sympathized with iPhone users waiting for a flight to be ready to activate the phone's SOS mode, but advised them to do so if they sense imminent danger. Samsung phones have a similar feature.
To prevent money theft, the program's spokespersons urge users to use all available access protection measures: double authentication and longer, more complex passwords.
However, Venmo users, for example, do not need a password to perform their activities.
For victims robbed through the banking app, Cheung said, "If you inform them in time, some may cancel the transfer."
To prevent misuse of stolen photos, contacts and other data, victims can "call cell phone providers and send what they call a kill signal and delete your data," he said.
Yes, they will be deleted as long as, as the BCA rep says, you "regularly back up your phone data" and are somewhere separate from your laptop or phone.
Klokoff and Cheung agreed that the ring's arrest prevented the others from picking up where their members left off.
But Cloko said he's been a cop long enough to know not to party again.
"Thefts have gone down and that's great news," he said. "But I'm worried about the market. It's not over yet."