Every couple of weeks, something new seems to pop up that sets off some sort of new trend that many people latch on to. And every once in a while, these trends end up having unintended consequences with regards to the insurance industry.
One such recent trend is Pokémon Go, a new mobile phone game based off the playing card and Gameboy game that was popular years ago. This game allows users to “hunt” virtual creatures called Pokémon, but instead of doing this just on your phone, you’re actually “hunting” them in your actual, physical surroundings, through a technology called Augmented Reality.
To play, once the game is open on your phone, it shows you a virtual map of your immediate area, similar to using Google or Bing Maps, and places your virtual character right in the middle of the map. While looking at the screen, the game shows you where there are Pokémon creatures around you to go “collect,” and in order to get this creature, you have to physically (in real life) walk to this location, say a nearby bank or post office, at which point a Pokémon shows up on your phone screen for you to collect. This game became so popular so fast, that it only took a couple of days for it to have more daily users than Twitter!
How could you relate insurance to something like this? Well, people have been so glued to their phone screens while hunting these creatures that they’ve caused themselves and others both bodily injury and property damage, and have also been robbed! Players have walked into poles, walked over a cliff (!), driven into a tree while driving and playing the game at the same time, and been robbed at gunpoint! If you have a view of the street from your office window, take a look outside a couple of times a day. I can almost guarantee that you will see someone staring at their phone while slowly walking around. I see it almost every day now.
Which Insurance Coverages Can Help Me?
As far as insurance, here are some of the ways that common insurance policies that you might already have will help in some of the situations mentioned above:
- Homeowners and renters insurance provides you with coverage in a couple of ways:
- If you were to get robbed while playing, your policy could cover your possessions that were taken, subject to your deductible. Some companies even allow you to specifically insure your cell phone for its full value.
- On the other hand, if you were to cause property damage because you accidentally trampled someone’s flower bed, or kicked something over and broke it because you weren’t paying attention, your liability insurance could help cover those damages if you’re held responsible.
- In the auto related loss mentioned above, where a driver in upstate NY drove into a tree because she was distracted playing the game, her auto policy would cover the damage to her car, and to any property she may have damaged.
- Identity theft is another good coverage to have. Because if a thief did make off with your phone or wallet, and decided to use the info to steal your identity, this important coverage, that’s often on homeowners policies, can help reimburse your costs associated with restoring your identity, and in some cases could assign a case manager to help you along the way.
There are some things you can do to help protect yourself, and your kids, with regards to apps and games like this:
- Pay close attention to the “permissions” these apps ask for when you download them. When the game first came out, it required users to sign in with their Google accounts, but the permissions gave the app complete access to users Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Photos when using it on iOS. They released an update just to cut down on this access.
- Pay attention to how much information you or your kids voluntarily share. Many of the apps you download, like this one, are owned by corporations who can make money by selling your data to other third parties for marketing. Data such as your social media info and profiles, and geolocation can be sold.
- Lastly, pay attention to where an app like this may lead you. You may see a notice on your phone that a Pokémon is a couple of blocks away, but that may not be such a good part of town. Be aware of where you are and where you’re going.
Hopefully all of you Pokémon Go players are being safe out there! Call us at (914) 769-1700 to review your insurance coverage and any gaps you may be concerned about.