HOBOKEN, N.J. (PIX11) – Instead of stealing wallets, Police said thieves are taking people’s money right from their phones, pretending to collect money for charity. 

“We’ve seen anywhere from $200 all the way up to $3,000,” said Det. Lt. Jonathan Mecka of the Hoboken Police Department. “These [victims] are people I think have a heart and want to help somebody in a bad situation, and unfortunately, criminals these days play to that.”

Hoboken Police said one of the new crime trends involves young people approaching their victims in crowded areas, like the PATH station, Washington Street and Pier-A Park, asking for donations.

“A group of teenagers will approach – sometimes they have candy, sometimes they don’t – ‘would you like to make a charitable donation to basketball, to my Charity, to this Charity,’” said Mecka. 

Police said when the would-be victim says they have no cash, they’re asked for their Venmo or Zelle. Victims have handed over their phones while the other person types in a large amount of money and hits send.

In another bold scheme, Police said the criminals stood outside banks and asked people walking by if they could deposit a check in their account in exchange for cash from the ATM, saying they didn’t have a bank account to deposit the check.

“They end up taking that check, putting it into the ATM, and it takes the bank 24 to 72 hours to figure out that check is fake,” said Mecka.

These crimes happen within seconds, and Hoboken Police said no one age group is being targeted.

“We’ve seen late 20s all the way up to over 60,” said Mecka. “People should treat their phone like a wallet. If somebody came up to you and asked you for your wallet to do something, you’re probably going to say no. And you’re going to walk away and, ‘that’s really weird.’ today, the phone is a wallet.”

Police said anyone committing these crimes could see at least a year behind bars.