An email and subsequent Facebook post claims that women are being given business cards laced with a drug called Burundanga in order to assault and rob them. Today we’ll take a look at this warning a little closer.
The Drug is Real and Used by Criminals in South America, but There is No Evidence that this Particular Story or its Accompanying Warning are Real.
There are several things to consider, so let’s first take a look at the story as it is being circulated in recent years:
POLICE WARNING!! Police Warning Ladies: If you are a female, take heed! If you are male and have a significant female in your life who you care about, whether it’s your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your niece, your cousin, your next door neighbor; whomever…………..pass this along! Always, “Better safe than sorry!” A man came over and offered his services as a painter to a female putting gas in her car and left his card. She said no, but accepted his card out of courtesy and got in her car. The man then got into a car driven by another gentleman. As the lady left the service station, she saw the men following her out of the station at the same time. Almost immediately, she started to feel dizzy and could not catch her breath. She tried to open the window and realized that the odor was on her hand; the same hand which accepted the card from the gentleman at the gas station. She then noticed the men were immediately behind her and she felt she needed to do something at that moment. She drove into the first driveway and began to honk her horn repeatedly to ask for help. The men drove away but the lady still felt pretty bad for several minutes after she could finally catch her breath. Apparently, there was a substance on the card that could have seriously injured her. This drug is called ‘BURUNDANGA’ and it is used by people who wish to incapacitate a victim in order to steal from or take advantage of them. This drug is four times more dangerous than the date rape drug and is transferable on simple cards. So take heed and make sure you don’t accept cards at any given time you are alone or from someone on the streets. This applies to those making house calls and slipping you a card when they offer their services. PLEASE SEND THIS E-MAIL ALERT TO EVERY FEMALE/MALE YOU KNOW!!!!
What is Burundanga?
Burundanga is a real drug. Its more common name is scopolamine, which comes from the Borrachero tree, commonly found in Colombia. Scopolamine is odorless and tasteless, and must be ingested or inhaled in order to produce effects.
As a prescription drug, it is known as Transderm Scop in the United States, and Transderm-V in Canada. It is often available as a patch, meaning it can be absorbed through the skin, although it requires more extended contact than the story above indicates. Its typical prescription use is to prevent nausea, often following anesthesia.
Scopolamine was also briefly considered to be a “truth serum” in the early 20th century.
Criminal use of the drug has been reported in South America for years. Criminals choose this drug because high doses appear to affect memory and make the victim passive. It is also called “Devil’s Breath” because of reports that scopolamine could be blown into the faces of victims to turn them into mindless “zombies.”
According to PubMed Health, the side effects of scopolamine include:
- Allergic reaction
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or memory loss
- Fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, or fainting
- Eye pain
- Trouble urinating
- Dry mouth
- Dry, itchy, or red eyes
There are no details in the narrative above which would allow us to check on its veracity. Versions have been circulating since at least 2008, and there was a story posted in 2010 about an incident in which a woman believed she was drugged in this manner in Kansas City. The police department’s website states the following about the incident: “…it is highly unlikely that such brief skin contact with any type of toxin could produce such a fast response. It’s more likely the victim suffered anxiety-related symptoms like a panic attack from the stress of the event, but there is no way to prove that.”
Reports of Hoax
In fall of 2008, the Telegraph and the Courier Mail published articles in which the police called the “Burundanga buisness card” claims a hoax.
According to the Courier Mail article, a spokesman for the Queensland Police Service labelled the warning a hoax. The article goes on to report that the police had been receiving multiple calls on a weekly basis inquiring about Burundanga claims.
The Telegraph article states that a detective in Burnham, Essex had accidentally sent the email hoax to hundreds of thousands of women worldwide. Detective Constable Simon Lofting obtained the hoax email and forwarded to other officers to see if the facts were verifiable, yet the email was unintentionally somehow passed on to thousands of women. The Essex police issued the following statement about the incident:
“The email has been exposed as a hoax. The whole story, which hints the incident happened in Essex, was from an urban myths website and was altered to include a warning from an Essex Police marine unit officer. Anyone who receives it should delete it from their inbox.”
While Burundanga/scopolamine is a real drug used by some criminals in South America, we could find no legitimate evidence that attacks with it are occurring in any large numbers outside of that area. Further, we found no evidence of such business card attacks occurring anywhere, and several media outlets have issued statements from police calling such tales a hoax. In most cases, contact with a business card tainted with the drug would not likely produce the results claimed in the story above, although we have found theories about techniques that exist in which such an attack could theoretically occur.
Unless you live in South America, where burundanga attacks of different types may occur, there is little to worry about here.
Revised February 8, 2015
Originally published March 2013