USA

Dating Apps Travel Warning Issued Over 8 Deaths Caused By Drug Trap In Colombia

Situated in the Aburra Valley in the Colombian portion of the Andes Mountains, Medellin is a vibrant city with dazzling nightlife, rich culture, friendly locals, and a temperate climate.

The city draws visitors from all over the world and has been a hotspot for Americans in recent years. 1.4 million visitors went to Medellin last year, 40% of which were Americans.

Unfortunately, along with everything that makes Medellin so unique, there is a dark side, and many American men are finding themselves victims of what locals refer to as burundanga. In the last two months of 2023, eight US citizens died in the city of Medellín, in incidents involving drugging or suspected murder.

What is Burundanga?

Burundanga, also known as Devil’s Breath, is a drug medically known as scopolamine. Traditionally, scopolamine is used to treat nausea, but in large doses, it can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours, block their memory, and make them willing to provide private information such as bank and password information.

Scopolamine is hard to detect due to its odorless, tasteless, and scentless properties. It can be administered as a spray, liquid, or powder, and most concerning of all, in rare cases, it can cause respiratory failure and death. 

U.S. Embassy Security Alert

On January 10, 2024, the U.S. Embassy Bogota issued a security alert regarding eight suspicious deaths of U.S. citizens in Medellin, recorded between November 1 and December 31, 2023. These incidents, characterized by involuntary drugging overdoses or suspected homicides, appear to be unrelated due to the distinct circumstances surrounding each case. Nonetheless, a pattern of drugging, robbery, and overdose has emerged, with several cases linked to the use of online dating applications.

The Tourism Observatory of the District Personnel of Medellin reported a significant uptick in crimes against foreign visitors, with thefts increasing by 200 percent and violent deaths by 29 percent in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the previous year. Notably, the majority of victims in these violent deaths were U.S. citizens. Criminals have been exploiting dating apps to target victims, arranging meetings in public places to assault and rob them. There have been numerous instances where U.S. citizens in Colombia were drugged and robbed, and in some cases, killed, by individuals they met through these applications.

The Embassy has observed a rise in reports of such incidents over the past year, particularly in major cities including Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota. These crimes are often underreported due to the victims’ embarrassment and reluctance to engage with the judicial process.

Given this alarming trend, the U.S. Embassy advises citizens to exercise increased vigilance, enhance their situational awareness, and adopt stringent personal security measures during their stay in Colombia.

How to Protect Yourself

If you are traveling, there are always steps you should take to protect yourself. For example, you should always tell someone you trust your plans and whereabouts, but there are specific steps you can take to protect yourself from burundanga. 

  • Avoid going places alone or leaving with a stranger.
  • Do not accept food or drink from strangers.
  • Do not leave food or drink unattended.
  • Call “123” from any Colombian payphone if you are in immediate danger.
  • If you are meeting someone from a dating site, send their photo and information to a friend so they can be found if your electronics are stolen. 

Staying Safe and Having Fun in Medellin

Colombia is a beautiful place to visit, and Medellin is one of its national treasures. Visitors have much to enjoy and discover in this South American town, but it is always important to stay alert and aware. 

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