OMG!! Kill me there….I mean…. meet me there. This is funny, but it’s not a joke. If you think that you are just letting your friends know where you are grabbing a drink or a bit to eat, you are wrong. Predators are watching the information you share as well.

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When “John,” a gay man from a southern town in the U.S., stumbled upon Grindr, a location-linked app for gay men, he saw it as an opportunity to meet like-minded people in his hometown.

“I thought it was neat because you got to see the proximity of people — you knew you weren’t talking to someone from California,” he said in an interview with CNNMoney. (John is not his real name. He requested anonymity for this story to protect his safety.)

Grindr is one of the more sexually explicit apps that detect users’ locations and helps them arrange to meet up in person, but John insists his goal was to expand his social circle: He and his boyfriend of three years hoped Grindr would help them make friends in a city where they felt isolated because of their sexual orientation.

“We both don’t drink, and wanted to find a way to connect with other couples to go on road trips,” John says.

John discovered the app on Apple’s iTunes, and began chatting on Grindr with a man who also indicated that he was looking for friendship. After nearly a month of messaging back and forth and exchanging phone numbers, John agreed to meet the man — who self-identified as HIV-positive — for lunch.

What happened afterwards was a nightmare. During the lunch, John recalls leaving the table for a couple minutes to use the restroom, leaving his soda unattended. He describes feeling “dizzy” afterwards, and vaguely remembers a sexual attack in a department store dressing room.

Hours later, John was in the hospital. A police report filed by John and released by the local police agency to CNNMoney matches John’s story: that he was allegedly drugged and raped by the man he had just met. John says he has since received multiple HIV tests — all clean so far — and spent thousands of dollars on medical bills and for psychological care following the attack.

John’s assault is a location app horror story, but it is part of what both police and those in the tech trenches say is a growing trend: As users adopt apps that pinpoint their whereabouts, predators are adopting the same tools.

“We have no doubt that this kind of thing happens all the time,” says Sergeant Amy Watkins, a public information officer for the police department in Visalia, Calif. “Predators are getting on to these locations apps. I’m sure these kinds of crimes occur and they’re not reported.”

The issue rocketed into the headlines this week when flirting app Skout suspended its teen network. The company, whose app zeros in on your location and shows you other Skout users nearby, made the move in the wake of three separate reports of men raping minors after posing as teens in Skout’s community for 13- to 17-year-olds. The alleged victims are 12, 13 and 15 years old.

“For now, we believe that there’s only one thing we can do: until we can design better protections, we are temporarily shutting down the under-18 community,” Skout founder Christian Wiklund wrote in a blog post about the suspension. “We are extremely sorry about this, but we don’t believe we have any other choice.”


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