South America

US says Americans should avoid dating apps in Colombia after 8 deaths

A State Department warning says criminals are using dating apps to lure victims to meet in public places and then later assaulting and robbing them.

Man using dating app on mobile phone
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Americans traveling to Colombia are being warned not to use online dating apps while in the country after multiple “suspicious deaths,” the U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory

Throughout the final months of 2023, eight U.S. citizens were killed by an involuntary drug overdose or by suspected homicides in the Colombian city of Medellin, the State Department explained. 

Officials don’t believe the deaths are linked, but several involved the victims using online dating apps and then subsequently being robbed, drugged or killed. 

“Criminals use dating apps to lure victims to meet in public places such as hotels, restaurants, and bars, and then later assault and rob them,” the State Department said in a statement. ""Numerous U.S. citizens in Colombia have been drugged, robbed, and even killed by their Colombian dates." 

There’s been an increase in these types of incidents reported to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, most of which have taken place in big cities like Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota. 

However, the embassy said these types of crimes often go underreported because victims are embarrassed or do not want to follow through with the judicial process. 

According to the Tourism Observatory of the District Personnel of Medellin, the number of thefts committed against foreign visitors in Colombia increased by 200% in the end of 2023 compared to the previous year and violent deaths of foreign visitors increased 29% — and most of the victims were U.S. citizens. 

Currently, the State Department has Colombia listed under a Level 3 “reconsider travel” advisory due to the level of violent crime and terrorism happening in some parts of the South American country.

Officials offered these tips for those who will continue to travel to Colombia and potentially use dating apps:

-If meeting with a stranger, strongly consider meeting only in public places and avoiding isolated locations, such as residences or hotel rooms, where crimes are most likely to occur.

-If inviting an individual that you just met to your residence or hotel room, speak to your door attendant/concierge beforehand and establish a policy as to what information your new visitor should provide before being authorized entry (photo of identification, etc.) and what process should be followed when your visitor departs.

-Tell a friend or family member of your plans, including where you are going, details of the person you are meeting and the app you used to meet them. Victims who are targeted via online dating applications tend to have their electronic devices stolen which often contain all evidence of communication with the assailants.

-Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.  Victims of crime who resist robbery are more likely to be killed.

-Trust your instincts — if something does not feel right, do not hesitate to walk away from a situation.

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