They steal your phone at the bar — and then this Denver scam really starts

They open your phone, lock you out of all your accounts and use Venmo and other apps to take your money.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Dozens of people have reported that they were the victims of an elaborate scam that has been operating at nightlife spots in Denver this year. It’s pretty simple. First, someone sneakily steals your phone at the bar — but that’s only the bait.

Eventually, you call your phone to see if anyone has it. Someone picks up, to your great relief. They say they’re the manager of the bar. They just need proof that it’s really yours.

“Can you please give me your passcode so I can ensure this is your phone?” the person says. This may not make a lot of sense, considering you called them… but you do it anyway.

Then they open your phone, lock you out of all your accounts and use Venmo and other apps to take your money. That’s the scam. I’m guessing you don’t get your phone back, either.

Denver police have received reports of 39 similar cases since May. In response, they’re advising people to:

  • Keep their phone secure in a closed bag or in their pockets.
  • Use complex passcodes. Not “1-2-3-4.”
  • Do not link payment apps to other accounts, as this can make them easier to breach.
  • Don’t give out your PIN and other passwords or codes.
  • If you lose your phone, log in remotely to wipe personal information and disable payment accounts.

I’ll also add that apps like Venmo often have extra security settings. I just set my Venmo to require my thumbprint or a special PIN, so it’s not accessible even if you get into my phone. Boom.