After dating app murders spike in Colombia, Match Group offers to help the police Meilleur site de rencontre en 2024 entre adulte


With his Tinder date due to arrive at his Airbnb any minute, BK locked his laptop, phone, wallet, and U.S. passport in the guest bedroom. He hid the key inside a sock on the drying rack, eager to avoid making the same mistake twice.

BK, an investment banker from the U.S., had done his homework before setting up the date with a 40-year-old woman named Cateryn. After she told him she worked as a doctor at a major hospital and sent him pictures of her in uniform, BK ran her ID through a police database. The security guard at BK’s building took down her information when she arrived.

“I never felt threatened,” BK, who requested to be identified by his initials for fear of professional repercussions, told Rest of World.

One of the last things he remembers from that cool evening in Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia, is offering Cateryn a second beer and going to the fridge for “literally 20 seconds.” BK woke up 18 hours later to find his bedroom empty and items worth $10,000 missing.

But he’s one of the lucky ones.

In 2023, the Medellín Tourism Observatory documented 41 violent tourist deaths — a 40% increase from 2022. Of these, 17 victims were U.S. citizens, and several of the cases were linked to dating apps. In December, the U.S. Embassy issued a warning about using the platforms.

With growing attention on the issue, Match Group, the parent company of Tinder and Hinge, sent delegates to Colombia for a meeting with the U.S. Embassy, the FBI, Medellín hotel representatives, and local authorities on February 29. During the unprecedented gathering, Tinder agreed to train Colombian police on a crime-reporting platform, where they can request in-app information that could aid their investigations of such attacks. The same day, U.S. officials also hosted a town hall for American citizens in Medellín, promising a “concerted effort” to address attacks on them, including a plan to work with local influencers to produce safety content. 

Experts believe the safety measures taken by most dating apps so far are largely reactive and place the onus on users to protect themselves. Rest of World also spoke to six victims of dating app attacks who said the incremental steps apps have taken over the last two months are unlikely to prevent crimes.

A screenshot from a Facebook group about dating apps in Colombia.

Dating apps’ terms of use continue to say “that [users] are responsible for who [they’re] speaking with,” Aunshul Rege, an associate professor of criminal justice at Temple University, who studies romance scams, told Rest of World. Apps should add background checks to their business costs, she said. “It shouldn’t have to be optional or an extra fee … pushing it back to the customer.” 

Despite its implication in deaths and robberies, Tinder, the most-used dating app in Colombia, is not considering pulling its service out of the country. “We are in the business of connecting people and helping them find love,” Kayla Whaling, a spokesperson for Match Group, told Rest of World

In January, Tinder users who set their location to Colombia began seeing in-app warnings about “heightened risks” and recommendations to “prioritize” their safety. The app has human and automated moderation to look for red flags, and allows users to be “verified” if they take a selfie that matches the photos in their profile, said Whaling.

The gay dating app Grindr also launched in-app warnings in February in response to “increasing violence,” a spokesperson for the platform told Rest of World

Bumble, the second most-used app in Colombia, did not respond to several requests for comment. The company announced last week that it plans to cut 350 jobs as part of a global “restructuring.”

After Reza Kaabi, a San Francisco resident, reported being robbed by a woman he met in Colombia through Bumble in 2020, the app largely shrugged him off, he told Rest of World. “Victims often experience unjust scrutiny and victim blaming, which discourages them from coming forward,” Kaabi said. He urged dating apps to work more closely with authorities.

The spate of murders has tarnished Medellín’s image. Earlier this year, the local government began applying measures to reduce crime, including police inspections to root out drugs, weapons, and minors engaged in sex work. In February, the police captured three men who worked with women to rob nearly a dozen tourists of an estimated $20,000.

The U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Bogotá told Rest of World it has created a “working group” to coordinate with the police and other embassies with “similar concerns.” The burden of tamping down crime, however, ultimately falls on Colombian authorities, a top U.S. Embassy official told citizens during the Medellín town hall.

Victims said they’d like to see stricter verification requirements for users in high-risk places like Colombia — such as the ones Tinder recently announced it will make available in the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, and Brazil, which require an ID and a video selfie.

For BK, the new measures seem insufficient because they focus on what to do “after the crime has happened.” 

“The crooks are smarter than Tinder.”

“The question is: What can … dating apps do to prevent [it]?”

BK’s tryst with Cateryn wasn’t the first time he fell victim in Medellín. One night in 2017, he was out watching a basketball game when someone slipped drugs into his beer. Three days later, he woke up with bloody arms and legs, his phone and wallet missing, and his memory erased.

“I could have died,” BK said.

He mustered the courage to come back to Medellín five years later, eager to replace this sour memory with a pleasant one. But that never happened.

Cateryn spent four hours in the apartment searching for BK’s valuables and left around 2 a.m., according to the building security. While he was passed out, Cateryn unmatched him on Tinder and used his laptop to get into WhatsApp and delete her contact, pictures, and their conversation. BK didn’t report the incident to Tinder, assuming it was useless without evidence. 

A screenshot of a warning message on the app Tinder.

“She was a pro,” he said. “The crooks are smarter than Tinder.” 

According to Whaling, Tinder’s support team can recover someone’s profile even if they unmatch their victim after an attack.

Assault victims say they have seen their attackers on a second dating app after reporting them on the first, Marissa Meredith, an assistant professor of law at Duquesne University who authored a report on apps’ safety protocols, told Rest of World.

She suggested platforms coordinate to create a “safety center” where they can share information about repeat offenders and block them from using any app “as a means to prowl for victims.”

Juan David Giraldo, an attorney in Medellín who specializes in crimes targeting foreigners, estimates that more than 90% of these robbery cases go unreported. Most victims of dating app crimes are too embarrassed to report, he told Rest of World

While apps should boost safety measures, users’ awareness of the city’s dangers is more important, Juliana Cano de Bedout, a partner at Giraldo’s firm, told Rest of World. “[Tourists] are no longer even aware of the danger they’re exposing themselves to,” she said, even though there’s a “high degree of probability” they are targeted in Medellín.

“When it’s too good to be true, just be careful.”

A self-described “professional dater,” Carlo Amato traveled from Italy to Medellín in 2020. After he invited Andrea, a 20-year-old he met on Tinder, to his Airbnb for a drink, he lost “everything,” including two phones, two watches, a laptop, and 300 euros. 

“When it’s too good to be true, just be careful,” Amato told Rest of World.

When the police didn’t pursue his case, Amato looked for Andrea on his own — before Colombian friends, aware that gangs have been involved in several attacks on foreigners and fearful for his safety, warned him against it.

Medellín’s mayor, Federico Gutiérrez, has spoken out against tourists who come to the city for sex and drugs. While most dating app users are not inherently deviant, Gutiérrez told Rest of World, the prevalence of crime in Medellín makes them vulnerable. “There are criminal structures that … use these platforms,” often to get money from “express kidnappings,” he said.

After he awoke and found himself stripped of his belongings in October, BK realized he was trapped in Colombia. He took an overnight bus to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá to request an emergency passport. A friend booked him a flight back home to Florida.

He tried to report his attack to the police in Medellín from the U.S., but authorities told him he needed to come back to pursue the case. He plans to do that, but isn’t hopeful the culprits will be found — or punished. 

“I don’t think there will be any accountability,” he said.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *