String of Grindr users assaulted, robbed and ‘held to ransom’ in South Africa

South African authorities have issued a warning to Grindr users to be careful as robbers and thieves use the app to find victims.

Police urged users to be careful after a man who thought he was going on a date was assaulted, tied up and robbed by someone he had met on the app. The police say these crimes are common in Jules, Malvern and Johannesburg.

Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello told News24 that burglary via the Grindr app has become common and what people think are dates are actually set-ups. Sello stated that three crimes of this nature have been reported and the suspects are due to go to court soon.

Lerato Phalakatshela from OUT, an LGBTQ+ organisation in Pretoria, said: “We’ve heard about the Grindr scams, and there has been an increase in these stories in the last few months where scammers lure gay or bisexual men and then take their belongings, sometimes their bank cards are taken and their money withdrawn or their cars are stolen.

“It has been happening beyond this year, in fact for a while now ever since Grindr was introduced to South Africa, but the scale of how big these crimes are becoming is alarming,” as per News24.

Gay men have become targets on Grindr for theft and burglary. (Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty)

Phalakatshela explained that men who use the app are easy targets because many of them are closeted and won’t report crimes against them for fear of being outed.

“Our role as an organisation that protects the rights of LGBTQ+ people is to advise gay men on safety while also trying not to victim shame. Users need to be aware of their surroundings when meeting with people but there is so much you can do, at the end of the day perpetrators need to be brought to book,” he said.

Zsa-Zsa Fisher is a member of Trans Power Care Center, which advocates for transgender and non-binary rights.

They explained that perpetrators “hold people ransom and call the victims’ families or friends demanding a deposit of a certain amount of money” or even “ask for your banking information to clean your account out”.

An anonymous user told News24 that “perverse older men” would hit on him constantly and although he has not been a victim to a scam or trick he believes the lack of identification verification makes the app unsafe.

“You could be an underage teenager and communicate with older men and get them to pick you up at any location and never have to verify your age, this is what makes the app dangerous,” they said.

Durban Lesbian and Gay community and healthcare project coordinator Sbo Khumalo said: “When people use these dating apps, they must be careful not to trust everyone on there because some people use fake pictures of themselves just to draw the attention of users.

“Be careful of what you reveal to these people because you never know what kind of intentions they have towards you.”