Wrigleyville scammer tried to transfer $1,500 to himself with victim’s phone, police report says

CHICAGO — It’s a fact of life: every new technology brings new scams. And one of the hottest scams these days is hijacking bank accounts and cash transfer apps.

Earlier this month, DePaul University warned its community that three people affiliated with the school had recently had their electronic payment apps hijacked by street performers around its Loop campus.

In January, Chicago police warned about men operating a similar scheme along Clark Street in Wrigleyville and on the Magnificent Mile.

Now, police have made an arrest, saying they caught a guy who tried to transfer $1,500 from a man’s phone in Wrigleyville last weekend.

James Lyons, 37, convinced the 22-year-old man to surrender his phone “under false pretenses and by deception” in the 3500 block of North Clark around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, according to a CPD arrest report.

James Lyons (Chicago Police Department)

According to the report, he then tried to transfer $1,000 and $500 from the Vernon Hills man’s CashApp account without the victim’s knowledge.

The report said police seized two “bucket boys” flyers when they arrested Lyons. Bucket boys are the guys who bang on plastic tubs on the street, hoping to earn tips from passersby.

Prosecutors charged Lyons with felony theft by deception. Judge William Fahy released him from custody the next day.

The details in CPD’s report sound similar to the scenario detailed in DePaul’s campus alert this month. The school said scammers were handing victims flyers for a “drumming program” on sidewalks in the Loop.

Thieves have used the bucket boy trick or phony sob stories about raising money for a child who had been shot in Lakeview and on the Mag Mile.

The men ask to use the victim’s phones to transfer “donations” via PayPal, Apple Pay, Zelle, or Venmo. But they take far more than a modest donation.

Sometimes, the men delete the banking app from the victim’s phone, so the victim does not receive any notifications about the transaction, the police said.

“They present a clipboard with a bunch of names, and they ask for money. They ask for Apple Pay. Stupidly, I gave them my Apple Pay, and they charged me $2300 to ‘Chicago Parks,'” the man said. He ran into them outside the Target store at Clark and Belmont.

CPD said the scammers targeted victims outside Shake Shack, 3519 North Clark, at 2 a.m. on January 13 and the Nike store, 669 North Michigan, at 1:04 p.m. on January 13.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com