Warning against gay dating app Grindr after users fall victim to robbers, rapist

A person looks at the Grindr app in the App Store.

A person looks at the Grindr app in the App Store.
  • Grindr, a free-to-use dating app, has become a platform on which users have been swindled.
  • This after Linden police reported three people were robbed and one raped.
  • The LGBTQI+ community has cautioned users of the app to safeguard themselves to avoid such scams. 

A dating app designed to allow gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people to meet and connect has allegedly turned into a platform for robbers, fraudsters and rapists who target innocent users.

Police have since issued a warning against using the app after a man, who thought he was off to meet a date, was assaulted, tied up and robbed by someone he had met on Grindr.

Explaining the modus operandi, Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said cases opened at the Linden police station indicated when victims join Grinder, a meeting was arranged for a blind date at a certain place, mostly at Cassablanca flat in Winsor West.

She said on meeting their dates, the unsuspecting victims are robbed off their cash, cellphones and jewellery.

Sello added in one of these incidents, a victim was raped.

According to her, three victims, between the ages of 25 and 26, old were robbed and three suspects have since been arrested and were expected to appear in court soon.

While this may come across as a new modus operandi for scammers, human rights manager Lerato Phalakatshela from OUT, an LGBTQ+ organisation in Pretoria, said this had been going on for quite some time, but had now become worrisome over the past few months given the extent of how it had grown.

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“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scammers lure gay or bisexual men and then take their belongings, sometimes their bank cards are taken and their money withdrawn or their cars are stolen.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 what I can say is that the scale of how big these crimes is becoming alarming,” added Phalakatshela.

He said one of his personal friends shared an experience where he was supposed to meet someone, however, when his friend got there he was robbed of his belongings.

A concerned Phalakhatshela added scammers have now found it easier to target gay or bisexual men on Grindr because they are most vulnerable and some are closeted and end up being blackmailed if they did not comply to the scammers’ demands.

“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.

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A member of the Transpower CareCenter that advocates for transgender and non-binary rights, Zsa-Zsa Fisher, described how each modus operandi was different for every user.

“Sometimes, they meet with the people and hold them ransom and call the victims’ families or friends demanding a deposit of a certain amount of money into their [suspects] account. Some even ask for your banking information to clean your account out.

“In the other case, the swindler asks the victim to send them money because they are in a jam, and the victim follows suit and sends money, and the swindler vanishes,” said Fisher.

In the LQBTI+ community, having such a negative experience with Grindr was not uncommon, said Fisher.

“The recent incidences that have been occurring have been hectic in the past month and it has been happening more in Jules, Malvern and Johannesburg.”

Grindr is not a safe space

A former Grinder user, who chose to remain anonymous, said the app was cleverly designed and even children could use, something the source added was not safe.

He said there was an age restriction of 18, but users did not require any form of identification, unlike other dating apps, adding Grindr had no proper system of flagging an underage user and banning their account.

“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.”

The source, who has used the app for a year and a half, said the he had bad experiences with the app, some of which made him delete it.

“The entire app would basically be filled with perverse older men who would hit on you and try to get you to go to places that you’re not comfortable with and take advantage of you.”

He added although he had not been subjected to any kind of scams, he still felt the app was not a safe space.

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Durban Lesbian and Gay community and healthcare project coordinator Sbo Khumalo said there was no means of stopping people from using the app apart from advising them on safety measures when using it.

“When people use these dating apps, they must not trust some people on it because they 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.

“Some say they want to meet up only for them to scam you, especially when it comes to men on Grindr because these criminals have a stereotype attached to gay men as being moneyed.”

Khumalo urged users to be careful of what they post and should they decide to meet up with someone, they should do so in a public space.