Robbers are hijacking phones, bank accounts in the Gold Coast, Chicago police say

Surveillance images show men who are robbing people outside nightclubs in the Gold Coast by taking control of their phone banking apps. (Chicago Police Department)

Chicago police are turning up the heat on scammers who’ve been hijacking phone banking apps outside bars in the Gold Coast. It’s one of the hottest crimes of 2024: criminals take control of a victim’s phone, either by force or under false pretenses, and then transfer cash from the victim’s banking accounts to themselves.

Just yesterday, we told you about a guy who’s been charged with running the scam in Wrigleyville. Last 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. Chicago police warned about men operating a similar scheme along Clark Street in Wrigleyville and on the Magnificent Mile in January.

Now, CPD is out with video that shows a crew in action. Detectives are trying to identify a couple of guys you’re about to see.

Police say this crew has targeted victims in the first block of East Elm on January 28 and February 10; the first block of West Elm on February 18; the first block of West Division on February 11; and the 1100 block of North State on February 11.

All of the crimes have occurred during the overnight hours on weekends, and nightclub patrons are frequently targeted.

Each time, “multiple” offenders strike up conversations with their victim. They then take the victim’s phone or wallet by force or deception and run away. After getting the phones, the crew will empty out their Venmo, CashApp, Zelle, and other banking accounts.

Check out this video that CPD released on Friday morning:

Police said the crew consists of up to four Black men who are about 25 years old. If you have information about them, call Area Three detectives at 312-744-8263 and refer to crime pattern #P24-3-016.

Similar schemes have involved men who claim to be raising money for children who’ve been shot or “bucket boy” drummers. Some crews who simply “borrow” a victim’s phone rather than steal it will delete the banking app from the victim’s phone before returning the device. That way, the victim will not receive any notifications about the transaction until it’s too late.

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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