“Drugged, Robbed, Killed”: The City Trapping US Tourists in Dating Scams


A string of unexplained deaths of American men in Colombia has been linked to dating apps, leading to a search for answers by the victims’ families. Tou Ger Xiong, a 50-year-old Hmong-American activist and comedian from Minnesota, was one of the victims. He was found dead in a remote area of Medellin after being kidnapped and held for ransom. His death is one of eight that led the US embassy to issue a warning about the dangers of using dating apps in the city. The US state department has identified a gang that has previously used dating apps to target victims for abduction and murder, but it’s unclear if this gang is responsible for the recent deaths. The first 10 months of 2023 saw 32 violent deaths of foreigners in Medellin, a 40% increase from the previous year. The embassy believes that many of these cases began with dating apps used to lure victims. Neither Tinder nor Bumble, both popular in the city, have commented on the issue. Carlos Calle, former director of the city’s tourism observatory, noted that it’s common for criminals to use scopolamine, also known as “Devil’s Breath”, to drug tourists. The US embassy has also issued warnings about this drug. While prostitution is legal and prevalent in Colombia, there is no evidence to suggest that the victims were involved with prostitutes. The US embassy advises citizens to avoid taking dates to private places and to inform others about their whereabouts. Medellin’s mayor, Federico Gutierrez, has directed police to address the issue of sex trafficking of minors, which he believes is a related problem. Despite these issues, Medellin continues to be a popular destination for tourists and remote workers.

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