Thieves are using the popular gay dating app Grindr to target and rob men.
Detectives in the south London town of Croydon have issued a warning after two separate men were robbed after arranging to meet a man via the dating app.
Both robberies happened last week.
Both victims were robbed at knife-point by a gang of four men at the agreed meeting spot.
Croydon Police Detective Constable Sheree Yates said that the victims were “very shaken” but fortunately escaped without serious injury.
He said that police are eager to track down the suspects and are appealing to anyone who has any information to contact them.
In the UK, victims of such crimes can report incidents to police on 101 (999 in an emergency) or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111.
A spokesperson for Grindr told the BBC that the company’s always encouraged users to use the platform like any social interaction: with a “measure of caution” and “an awareness of their own safety.”
From the Grindr spokesperson:
There are many ways to verify and take steps to protect yourself, from meeting in more public spaces to getting phone numbers and speaking beforehand. We take these matters very seriously and cooperate with local law enforcement at all turns where we can.
That advice is part of this list of safety tips for when using a dating app that London police had to offer:
- If you decide to meet in person, let someone know where you are going and when you’re likely to return.
- Always meet in a public place with lots of people around.
- Plan your journey to and from the date in advance. If using a cab, always pre-book.
- Drink responsibly and never leave your drink unattended.
- Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged and working.
- If at any time your feel uncomfortable, leave the date. You’re not obliged to stay.
- Don’t share personal details such as your home address until you can trust the person you are communicating with.
Here’s another tip from us: If you want to be extra cautious – and don’t mind giving up a little privacy for the sake of security – consider enabling a mobile phone app such as Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager.
Those apps allow your location to be tracked. Just remember to turn it off again if you don’t want your mother or your best buddy to know where you are at all times.
Of course, this isn’t a Grindr-specific problem. Everybody who uses online dating apps and sites should be cautious when meeting strangers.
A few months ago, the City of London, together with Action Fraud, launched a new initiative dubbed “Urban Fraud Myths” that aimed to separate cybercrime and fraud facts from fiction.
It kicked off with a look at online dating, a crime that swindled 3,543 Brits out of £33.65 million ($51 million) in the previous year.
One of the key myths:
I can always trust the people I meet on online dating sites as they will have been vetted before being allowed to join.
But the reality is that most dating sites allow people to sign up without being vetted, the organizations said, which should make us all wary of trusting strangers we meet online:
Always be cautious about the people you meet online, especially if they start asking for money to help a family member, to visit you or pay medical bills etc. Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don't know and trust.
That’s good advice, and we have even more tips here for staying safe when you use online dating sites.
Predators can be extremely convincing. Be careful!
Image of Grindr logo courtesy of Vdovichenko Denis / Shutterstock.com