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Kiss of death: U.S. issues warning about dating apps in Colombia after 8 Americans lured and killed in 2 months

The Embassy suggested that some of the victims were drugged, abducted, robbed and killed after meeting people on these apps

Colombian police officers patrol a street circa 2017
Colombian police officers patrol a street circa 2017 | Shutterstock

January 12, 2024 8:51am

Updated: January 12, 2024 8:51am

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota issued a stern warning on Wednesday about the dangers of using dating apps in Colombia after eight Americans experienced “suspicious deaths” during a two-month period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

The Embassy suggested that some of the victims were drugged, abducted, robbed and killed after meeting people on these apps.

“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,” the Embassy’s statement says.

According to the statement, some of the victims have “even been killed by their dates.”

The statement comes less than a month after ADN America reported on the disappearance and murder of a former comedian and Bush Foundation fellow, Tou Ger Xiong, from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

Xiong, whose family confirmed that he enjoyed traveling, especially to the South American country on occasion,  met an unidentified redhead on a dating app whose pictures surfaced in the media.

She had a small tattoo on her neck that said, “never give up.”

Xiong posted pictures that night on Oct. 20 on social media cheering about how happy he was on the date enjoying Korean food out in Medellin.

He disappeared later that night and was eventually found murdered. Police believe he was kidnapped and fatally stabbed by a group of men, all part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The U.S. embassy has warned that the eight incidents that occurred since Nov. 1 usually occurred in Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota where tourism has increased and there has been a higher volume of traveling Americans as of late.

Travelers are also being told to avoid isolated areas, even private hotel rooms. They advised that would be kidnappers are using dating apps to entice Americans to dangerous places where they are often attacked.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, foreign tourists encountered a 200% increase in robberies and killings by 29%. That number includes but is not limited to the eight Americans who died in the eight-week period.

In the final three months of 2023, the number of robberies of foreign visitors increased by 200% and deaths by 29%, including the eight Americans who died between 1 November and 31 December.

“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 statement says. “

The U.S. government also said that the investigative process has been frustrated for lack of prosecution. Some of the victims who survive don’t want to remain in the country to help police investigate and are uncomfortable with going public with what happened to them.

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.”

The Embassy suggested that the real number of tourists who have been attacked are most likely these kinds of crimes could be higher than the figures suggest.

The government also warned that once in the kidnappers’ clutches, it can be dangerous to resist their demands.

“Do not physically resist any robbery attempt,” the Embassy warns. “Victims of crime who resist robbery are more likely to be killed.

The Embassy warned Americans to do the following:

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 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.

Colombia currently has an orange level 3 travel advisory for Americans, which urges them to reconsider travel to the South American country.

“Reconsider travel due to crime and terrorism,” the advisory reads. “Exercise increased caution due to civil unrest and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk.”

Ultimately, the Embassy advises Americans to trust their gut.  

“Trust your instincts—if something does not feel right, do not hesitate to walk away from a situation,” the statement advises.

If you are an American in Colombia and suspect you could be in danger, you can contact the U.S. Embassy in Bogota at +57-1-275-2000 or 601-275-2000. More can be read about Colombia at the U.S. Dept. of State’s website.


Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.