The LGBT community is being warned about scammers who target gay people on dating apps after one fraudster allegedly beat a man within “minutes of his death” when he identified him.
Members of Malta’s LGBT community say the con artists meet men on dating apps and offer them “a good time” in exchange for money paid online. But they then disappear once the money has been sent.
The practice came to light when one such scammer turned violent after he was recognised by one of his victims, Tom*.
Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) said they received several reports of such scams after Tom went public.
Tom came across the trickster on Grindr – a dating application for gay, bi, trans and queer people – last year.
“I was immediately suspicious as he does not identify as gay, so I asked him why he was on the app,” he told Times of Malta.
“He blocked me straightaway but contacted me a couple of hours later on Facebook asking whether I wanted to meet up.”
When the two met, the aggressor climbed into Tom’s car and started punching him in the head, warning him not to tell his friends or family what had happened and adding that he had links with the police.
Tom managed to drive to a bus stop where he dropped his aggressor off and went home.
On a separate occasion, he bumped into the same man while out on a walk and was again beaten up.
“I heard someone shouting at him and he ran away. I managed to get home. I could actually hear dripping inside me… blood,” Tom said.
“That’s when I realised it was serious, so I asked my mother to take me to hospital where I passed out.
“At the hospital, I was told that I was lucky because I had only had seven minutes left to live.”
Hospital records show that Tom’s liver was lacerated. He was so afraid of the man that the first time he spoke to police officers he claimed to have been injured when he tripped over his dog.
But then he decided to tell the truth after a care nurse warned him that the aggressor could hurt others.
Knowing he is out there and knowing he lives close by, I don’t even go out at night. He has done it to me in daylight, he would do it again
Tom filed a report and the case has now reached the courts. However, the alleged aggressor failed to turn up for the first sitting in October, he said. In the meantime, Tom is scared of going out.
“Knowing he is out there and knowing he lives close by, I don’t even go out at night. He has done it to me in daylight, he would do it again,” he said.
'A case of hate crime'
One of the people called to testify in the court case, Allied Rainbow Communities president Clayton Mercieca, has been approached by several gay men who said they had fallen victim to the same scammer but were afraid to file a police report.
In most cases, the man asked for money over an online app in exchange for a “good time”. But then he failed to turn up.
The victims include tourists – the aggressor warned them he was carrying a knife and that he had links to the police, Mercieca said.
“This is a case of hate crime, as this person is identifying people who are looking to connect with other men and abusing of that connection,” he said.
“The person himself is masking himself as a gay person, but does not identify as one, and he is profiting off the situation.”
When ARC reached out to the LGBT community over the case, the NGO realised that scamming was widespread. Mercieca warned of cases across the world that had led to rape situations and death. He urged dating app users to be careful.
“By all means, dating apps are a way for the community to connect, however, these tools can be used for all the wrong reasons,” he warned.
“When you meet someone on a dating app, continue the exchange over other means of communication like WhatsApp and Facebook, meet at a public place and during the day, and then take it from there.
“Always take two steps back before taking the plunge.”
* name has been changed
If you need support, contact the Rainbow Support Services on firstname.lastname@example.org, Victim Support Malta on email@example.com or Allied Rainbow Communities on firstname.lastname@example.org.