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Security Alert: Risks of Using Online Dating Applications
January 10, 2024

Location:  Medellin/Countrywide

Event:  U.S. Embassy Bogota is aware of eight suspicious deaths of private U.S. citizens in Medellin between November 1 and December 31, 2023.  The deaths appear to involve either involuntary drugging overdose or are suspected homicides.  At this time, it is not believed these deaths are linked as each involved distinct circumstances, however several of the deaths point to possible drugging, robbery, and overdose, and several involve the use of online dating applications.

According to the Tourism Observatory of the District Personnel of Medellin, the number of thefts committed against foreign visitors (excluding Venezuelans) increased 200 percent in the third trimester of 2023 compared to the previous year and violent deaths of foreign visitors increased 29 percent.  Most of the 2023 violent death victims were U.S. citizens.

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.  Numerous U.S. citizens in Colombia have been drugged, robbed, and even killed by their Colombian dates.

Over the last year, the Embassy has seen an increase in reports of incidents involving the use of online dating applications to lure victims, typically foreigners, for robbery by force or using sedatives to drug and rob individuals.  The Embassy regularly receives reports of these types of incidents occurring in major cities, including, but not limited to, Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota.  These types of crimes routinely go underreported as victims are embarrassed and do not want to follow through with the judicial process.

U.S. citizens should be vigilant, maintain heightened situational awareness, and incorporate strong personal security practices into their activities.

Actions to Take:

  • Be cautious if using online dating apps in Colombia.
  • If meeting with a stranger, you should 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.