User playing the Pokemon GO app. (Photo by Jason Viau)

BBB Urges Caution With Pokemon GO

Gamers traversing around the region using the Pokemon GO app — not yet officially available in Canada — are being urged to proceed with caution.

The Better Business Bureau says catching virtual Pokemon in the real world poses some risks.

“You can be following a trail into an area that is potentially unsafe, a secluded area,” says Deborah Brady, CEO of the BBB for southwest Ontario. “Or you could just be stepping out into traffic and be distracted by the game.”

Pokemon GO is a new augmented reality phone application that sends users on the hunt for Pokemon and other items around different parts of the community.

Although the game isn’t available in Canada yet, people have found a way to download it anyway.

The BBB says they have a number of concerns with the game and are asking the public to be careful.

In Missouri, criminals used a Pokestop — designated locations where players must go to get virtual items — to rob unsuspecting gamers. There are also reports of people injuring themselves while playing.

“Players should use the same safety precautions while playing the game that they would in any other outdoor setting,” the BBB says.

At least one Pokestop has apparently mistakenly popped up at a homeowner’s private historic house causing some frustration. These locations are designed to be on public property or supportive private areas. The BBB recommends respecting private property owners even if it means you don’t catch that coveted Electabuzz or Squirtel.

They’re also saying you should watch your wallet. Pokemon GO may be free, but similar to many other games it involves purchasing in-game items and features.

As a game that requires constant GPS data, the BBB recommends checking your cell phone plan before walking to the nearest “Pokegym.”

“If you don’t have a high volume data plan you may end up with a surprising bill at the end of the month,” Brady says.

Developers behind the game recently admitted they mistakenly asked for full access to Google users who sign-up, when only basic access is needed. The BBB says this poses a privacy concern, although officials say no personal information has been accessed and a fix is in the works.

“If somebody gets your personal data they can rob you blind in a matter of a day before you even know what’s happened,” says Brady.