The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, is warning Americans traveling to the country not to use dating apps after eight "suspicious deaths" of private U.S. citizens.
According to the embassy, the deaths — potentially involuntary drug overdoes or suspected homicides — took place in Medellin between November 1 and December 31, 2023.
"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 said. The Embassy said it regularly receives reports of such incidents occurring in major cities, like Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota.
"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," it added.
Investigators said the deaths do not appear to be linked, as each involved distinct circumstances, but several point to "possible drugging, robbery, and overdose, and several involve the use of online dating applications."
"U.S. citizens should be vigilant, maintain heightened situational awareness, and incorporate strong personal security practices into their activities," an the embassy advisory said.
In a warning posted on Wednesday, U.S. Embassy Bogota urges U.S. citizens to "be cautious" if traveling and using 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," the posted warning reads.
"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," it continues.
The advisory also encourages communicating with friends and family members, notifying them where the traveler will be going, who they are meeting with, and the app used to connect with 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," the embassy said.
The embassy instructs people to use their instincts and not to hesitate to flee a situation that feels uninviting.
And, should the traveler become subject to a robbery, the embassy recommends not to physically resist. "Victims of crime who resist robbery are more likely to be killed," it says.
According to the Tourism Observatory of the District Personnel of Medellin, robberies of foreign visitors increased 200 percent during the end of 2023 compared to the previous year. Violent deaths also increased.
Most of the violent death victims through 2023 were U.S. citizens, the Colombian city said.