Tinder tells Colombia users to vet matches after fatal druggings

The ‘suspicious’ deaths of eight Americans in Medellín between November and December 2023, prompted the US Embassy to recommend refraining from using dating apps in Colombia. — AFP

Tinder issued a safety warning to its users in Colombia amid an increase in criminals using the popular dating app to lure victims who they drug and rob.

“Recently, there have been government advisories about heightened risks in certain regions,” according to an in-app message sent to Tinder users. “Please remember to vet your matches, meet in public places, and share plans with people you trust. If something feels off, you can end the date.”

A spokesperson for Match Group Inc, the parent company of the largest dating app, confirmed the contents of the message, which was sent to users beginning Wednesday. The spokesperson also said Tinder has engaged with local officials who have been investigating crimes related to foreigners and “will fully support with any information that will be helpful to them”, without indicating what officials may have requested.

The US Embassy in Bogota cautioned Americans earlier this month about the risks of using online dating apps in the region, following a surge of criminal activity in major Colombian cities where criminals used them to meet foreigners in public places, and later drug, assault and rob them.

Between Nov 1 and Dec 31 of last year, eight US citizens died in Medellin, according to the embassy, which said the deaths resulted from suspected involuntary drug overdose or suspected homicide. Over the last year, the embassy said it has seen an increase of incidents involving online dating apps being used to lure victims, typically foreigners, for robbery by force, or sometimes using sedatives to drug them first. These types of crimes “routinely go underreported as victims are embarrassed and do not want to follow through with the judicial process”, the embassy said.

The US Department of State has a level-three travel advisory on Colombia – the second highest on a four-tier scale – encouraging citizens to reconsider travel due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping.

After the pandemic, Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, received nearly 1.4 million visitors from abroad in 2022, surpassing Cartagena for the first time.

Medellin mayor Federico Gutierrez said earlier this month that the city wants to boost tourism, but warned travelers against practices related to drug use and sex exploitation.

“Follow your instincts,” Tinder told its users in Colombia. – Bloomberg

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