Over 50 CEOs, heads and corporate employees of Gurugram-NCR region are among the victims of a honey-trap operation on Grindr – a dating app for gay men. At least 100 people were lured by the gang over the last few months, members of which robbed and blackmailed the victims using their compromising photos.
As per senior Gurugram police officials, the gang’s operation was hinged on the assumption that social stigma against homosexuality would keep the victims from speaking out or seeking the police’s help. It is noteworthy that only one complaint has been officially lodged.
The police said the scam had been busted in November 2019 after a trap was laid out and a decoy was sent to meet one of the gang members. 4 of the total 6 members of the gang have been arrested while 2 are absconding, according to reports.
The Gang’s Modus Operandi
As reported by The Indian Express, the gang found potential victims on Grindr, arranging meetings with them in isolated spots in the city. After being physically intimate, the members would either rob or beat the victims, in some cases, even taking compromising photos of them with which to blackmail them.
The gang chose isolated areas to hold these meetings, such as Western Peripheral Expressway and Southern Peripheral Road in Gurugram.
“The accused used the social media app Grindr to contact their victims. 4 people had been arrested in November, but no fresh arrest has been made since then. The case is under investigation.”Subhash Boken, PRO of Gurgaon Police to The Indian Express
Police commissioner Muhammad Akil, speaking to the Hindustan Times, said the gang comprised 6 men from Bhondsi, Gurugram.
Hiring engineers to create fake Grindr profiles in September 2019, they targeted ‘high-profile’ people who could later be blackmailed.
The fake profiles were then operated by the gang members, who hired English-speaking employees to honey-trap the targets. “It took them almost a month to get friendly with the victims and once they gained (the victims’) confidence and assured them that their identities were safe, they set up meetings in Gurugram,” said Akil to HT.
The Dark Side of Dating Apps for Gay Men in India
In a country like India, with stigma surrounding homosexuality, navigating the world of online dating as a gay person is fraught with danger.
The Quint had previously reported about various cases of people being harassed by men they had met on gay dating apps. According to the Humsafar Trust, 18 harassment cases on dating apps for gay men were registered in Delhi-NCR between 2017-18. There were 40 cases in West Bengal, 21 in Maharashtra, 19 in Karnataka and 20 in Kerala in the same period.
When The Quint had reached out to Grindr in 2019, the company had stated that it is committed to create a safe environment for its users. The dating app had also made it compulsory for users to register either through a mobile number or via Facebook, instead of the email option which can easily be bypassed using fake IDs.
However within two days, the app had switched back to the email option but banned accounts that did not go through the email verification.
“Grindr is deeply committed to creating a safe and secure environment for our users. Any fraudulent activity is a clear violation of our terms of service and something we take very seriously. We encourage our users to utilise the in-app reporting functionality, and reports of inappropriate activity will be reviewed by our moderators and customer support agents, who then remove offending profiles as appropriate. We are continually assessing our practices and implementing new measures to provide a safe environment on our platform. Grindr works with a number of LGBTQ national and regional groups in India and they inform us of specific areas that are in need of a safety warning and then we place them accordingly. Through our Grindr for Equality platform, we’ve worked closely with Varta Trust and SATHII in order to direct users in India to the health and legal services locator. Through Grindr for Equality, we are on a mission to help LGBTQ people around the globe. Our wide-ranging initiatives impact communities large and small on issues that matter to them the most, such as safety, sexual health, advocacy, and more.”Grindr to The Quint in 2019
(With inputs from the Indian Express and Hindustan Times.)
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