Is Leisure Stay Group an internet predator targeting owners of tourist accommodations in South Africa.
Are they a bad deal or criminal? Hopefully this blog will help your decision. Either way, it's likely you'll push delete every time you encounter their stinky emails.
With internet crime alarmingly increasing, users must be extremely wary of unsolicited, email offers. The twist in this tale is the resulting threats by, Jaco Dercksen, apparently the owner of Leisure Stay Group. I'm not the first to incur his wrath.
The beginning was as simple as picket fencing in the small town of Knysna where i live. I built a website for cost price for neighbours who run a self-catering facility in Knysna. Since then, they, like others, have come to me with regards their internet and computer queries. They're wonderful people so i'm always happy to help out. This has included how to respond to unsolicited offers they receive for listings via email.
The latest, from Leisure Stay Group, landed, as i'd later discover, like leprosy:
"You showed interest to list your establishment with Leisure Stay Group.
Pay only R890 instead of R1200 for a 12 month listing on 8 websites.
Kindly send us your proof of payment of R890 to email@example.com to qaulify for the special rate.
Click here to view the quality of our listings [NB: I've removed the link].
Our Banking Details: Leisure Stay Group, First National Bank, Acc No: 62219901255, Br Code: 250655, Cheque Account, Ref: The Name of your establishment. Proof of payment can be faxed to 086 571 6489 or mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The name of your establishment should be used as reference with payment.
Do not hesitate to contact me for any further information.
If you already made payment today please ignore this email.
Not interested anymore? Unsubscribe Here [NB: I've removed the link].
A seemingly good deal but lacking substance to back it up. Despite the blatant lie of "you showed interest to list your establishment" which made them spammers, i gave them the benefit of the doubt and sent off a query asking them for screenshots of their statistics or a link to them so that i could judge the value.
That was Tuesday, September 24 at 05.59am. Later, i discovered it was Heritage Day, a public holiday, so, wanting to respond to my neighbours rather than delay, i clicked through to the websites mentioned and Googled them for reference. It became the internet equivalent of Dorothy clicking her heels and being whisked away to meet the Wicked Witch of Oz...err...the Internet.
There are many people unhappy with Leisure Stay Group and the complaints stretch back years to when they were marketing fire insurance and labour insurance. They were spammers then and a crazy claim such as this belittled their integrity: "Once you are a member I will forward a disciplinary code of conduct, if you follow the procedures on this document, I guarantee you will never land up in the offices of the CCMA." How can an honest person guarantee that? That's typical snake oil sales.
A user called Martin started a thread on Car Forum back in 2009 which ran into 2010. It was a reaction to being spammed and soon lead to alarming experiences. Before we get to those threats, we should look at the information he and others uncovered.
- The New Heights Fire Protection Company (2009/047060/23) had a website called nhlra.co.za which was registered to postbox 4951 in Brits.
- The company's constitution listed 4 members of which several are relevant to Leisure Stay Group and the threats i've received; Jaco Dercksen (Chairman), Estelle Theron (Treasury), Retha de Bruyn (Admin) and Gert Pretorius (Marketing).
- In 2009, Jaco Dercksen was listed as the 2nd worst spammer on ISPA's Spam Hall of Shame. In their words, he possessed a"history of sending spam to parties who did not request it, with multiple submissions from ISPA members or trusted independent sources." They listed 29 abusive domains and 53 abusive edresses. I'll explain as we progress but it was notable that many edresses included the words Zenteq, Jaco, Estelle and jcwhosting.com. And, as far back as then, there was wheretostayinsa.co.za. He was at #3 in 2011 and is currently at #2 again.
Martin claimed that his complaint lead to him being threatened by a man called Jaco: "Listen here your dumb fuck, can I give you my address, number 123 Kiepersol Avenue, Mtunzini. My telephone number is 0747499901. My ID number is 6806015043080, I am also a freemason." This was allegedly followed up with Jaco phoning Martin 10 times from 084 951 1614 and threatening to "burn my house down while I sleep".
Unless another family member is involved, or stood as guarantee, Jaco Dercksen may in fact be Louis Joagom Dercksen as an auction of company property in Brits in 2010 had that name listed as trustee. Martin states that he is as the ID number is the same. He was then residing at 26 Boegoeberg Street, Elandsrand, Brits.
A year earlier, Jaco Dercksen had appeared repeatedly on IMOD.co.za, on the comment section (a must read so follow that link) of a news item about a Chinese company selling a South African mailing list of 9 million edresses for $100. You should always read in context but his first comment makes his intentions as an internet criminal blatant:
Jaco Dercksen: Look at this website and can some-one please tell me where i can purchase south african email addresses,i need millions as to make this website work.and please alot of people talk about spam but do they actually know what yhe word spam stands for?easy Super Professional Advertising method - S.P.A.M.
Would you trust your advertising to this scarily unprofessional man? If you're somehow still in doubt, or intrigued, carry on reading...
The shoddy state of their websites was a sure sign that something was amiss. Links often lead to more links or repeated descriptions instead of accommodation listings e.g. click on Knysna Accommodation at leisurestay.co.za and and get taken to satravelassistant.co.za where exactly the same, poorly formatted description of is [note that if their websites are suspended, these links will not work]. There are links to the extinct website zenteq-seo.co.za and the still in operation nhlralabour.co.za (labour insurance, spamming business that was mentioned earlier in this blog). Most sections have been copied from wheretostayinsa.co.za which was registered in 2009 in an attempt, along with 2010insa.co.za, to capitalise on the 2010 World Cup. Info is badly outdated.
Proof of their 2009 accommodation spamming can be found here at broadband.co.za. Estelle Theron's name appears again. As said, she was a founding member of New Heights Fire Protection Company, is credited as a partner in 2010insa.co.za, and name appears as the registrant with .co.za for all the websites in their latest spam mail. Estelle Theron may be the web design partner in this nefarious misadventure. Although it doesn't exist, zenteqwebsolutions.co.za is sometimes credited as the web designer. However, zenteq.co.za is registered to her but when you go there you find another holiday site of similar, if not exactly the same, design as some of the others. Co.za lists her address as 38 Van Velden Street, Brits. Whether current or old, her postal address is listed as PO Box 3497, Brits, North-West, 0250. Possible numbers are 072 868 6458, 084 047 3026 and 012 252 7513. Importantly, Jaco Dercksen claims to be the owner of Zenteq.
Another reason why this smells like a bad deal is because the following 9 websites of theirs were registered within 3 weeks of each other:
- 2013/04/08 yourafricantravelassistant.co.za
- 2013/04/08 yoursatravelassistant.co.za
- 2013/04/17 leisurestaysa.co.za
- 2013/04/18 nationalaccommodation.co.za
- 2013/04/18 global-accommodation.co.za
- 2013/04/18 sleepover-sa.co.za
- 2013/04/30 sawebholidays.co.za
- 2013/04/05 satravelassistant.co.za
- 2013/04/30 webholidays.co.za
A tenth is accommodation-in-knysna.co.za which was registered the following month. I single this one out as it's the only one to concentrate on a specific town. My home town. And that gives more weight to the threats i received from Jaco Dercksen a.k.a. Louis Joagom Dercksen. Tell you more about that further down in this blog.
Before the threats, my first goal was to gather information and understand what i was dealing with. I'm currently so overloaded with local issues that i can't see daylight - my intention was to be quickly dutiful. I had no idea that i'd find so much wrong and that the situation would get out of hand.
I sent emails to some of the listings but, as of the posting of this blog, none have responded. I posted a query on my Love Knysna Facebook and had several subscribers confirm that they were being spammed by Leisure Stay Group.
People were way more vocal on Hellopeter, our South African complaints/compliments website:
- They sent me numerous e-mails telling me about a great special on advertising my guest house in about eight different websites for R 700. I paid the money via eft and I received an e-mail telling me that they will put up a website for me and send it to me for clearance within a few days. Nothing happened for a month, I sent them another mail asking what is going on or is this a ****. The lady replied that it is not a **** and they will contact me again. Nothing happened since then and now I do not get any replies from them. I asked them to pay my money back, also no reply. This correspondence is going on since 23rd May.
- I have on numerous emails requested to be unsubscribed or removed from Leisure Stay's email list for months. It has become so annoying. In the past week I have received at least one email a day. I have replied on the same email, [Email Removed] and also to the given email address for further enquiries: email@example.com. Yesterday I sent 8 emails to these two addresses and guess what I got this morning..... An email from Leisure Stay offering 2 options to list my 'business' on the website. I DON'T HAVE A GUESTHOUSE! How unusual that this company is listed on Hellopeter as "This company does not respond".
- I received an invoice for a special that Leisure Stay Group are offering to place accommodation on 7 websites. Since making the payment in May I have been completely ignored, I have sent emails, tried contacting them from the web page. the phone number on the invoice only goes to an answering service. no contact phone number is advertised on the web page. it this just bad business service, or have we been *******?? If its a **** it must be reported.
- Perpetually being bombarded by emails from this company who are actually impossible to get hold of. No landline number, no physical address. They prey upon guesthouses and accommodation establishments, promising to list their company on various websites, some of which don't even exist. All the web addresses are directed to the same site, and after taking your money, they don't list you. It has to be a ****.
- We have been bugged by this company non stop. Days on end end end without stop. We have send e-mail requesting to stop their activities but all in vain. Have requested to be removed from their mailing list but all in vain. PLEASE BE WARN NEVER EVER DO ANY BUSINESS WITH THEM OR ANY OF THE GROUPS THEY REPRESENT.
- I too have received some promotional emails urging me to advertise. Fortunately I emailed them with some questions before I paid my money. Now, I see the complaints on Hellopeter! Is this a scam or just total incompetence?
- I'm glad to see so many complaints about LEISURE STAY GROUP. My case is that after I declined their offer after some enquiries I continue receiving the same promotional email almost every day! I have clicked ''unsubscribe" several times and I have also written 3 letters in strong terms. To No avail. I continue receiving the unsolicited emails. This is a case to be published in this forum as well as in the newspapers if possible.
Earlier in the day i'd contacted Johan Hurter, owner of JCW Hosting which is home to many of Jaco and Estelle's websites. Coincidentally, JCW Hosting is 'around the corner' in Oudtshoorn. Johan said that he was aware of Jaco Dercksen and Estelle Theron as previously their account had been suspended due to spamming but reinstated as spam no longer originated from their servers. I hadn't compiled a full weight of evidence but was impressed at Johan's prompt action in suspending their account. However, that positivity was short-lived as their websites reappeared online a short time later. I haven't been told the reason but what happened next would seem to explain why there was a turnaround.
Jaco Dercksen sends me an email which starts simply enough: "I believe you contacted my ISP this morning about www.leisurestay.co.za, what is the problem" [spelling and punctuation mistakes not mine].
Unbelievably, JW Hosting had sent my email address to Jaco. Unbelievable because Johan was aware of Jaco's threats against a previous complainant. Unbelievable because he's a spammer utilising millions of edresses whilst i'm running many websites as part of my goal to increase Knysna's webprint. 1 + 1 could quite possibly equal disaster if mine or my customers' emails are targeted. Spammers can overload the system and bring down the websites.
I responded to Jaco with: "Provide me proof that you and Estelle are real people and i will respond."
Jaco digs back for the email query i had sent the day before, the one they hadn't answered, and totally perverts its meaning in an attempt to prove that i'm unreasonable: "Please see below, this idiot [meaning me] forwarded a mail to us requesting a possible listing now he claims that we have spammed him. The fact that you suspended our services resulted in a loss of income and I will institute legal action against him. I instructed him to apologize to both you and us, I have reported him to Google, ISPA and the Direct Marketing Association. I TRUST YOU SEE THE MATTER AS SORTED."
Jaco Dercksen hasn't changed a stitch over the years. His goal, when caught out, is to attack and put the blame on others. That makes him a bully. If anything, i hope that my activism at www.KnysnaKeep.org has proven that i hate bullies. They don't make me back down. They make me investigate harder hence this enormously long blog [sorry, readers - thanks to those of you who are still with me].
That threat was sent to JSW Hosting, leisurestaysa.co.za (i'm assuming Estelle) and himself at firstname.lastname@example.org (but displayed as Web-Optimizer). A fourth was to Doey Mothiall Attorneys.
I responded with: "Your mail guarantees an article about you because it's now obvious that you are an internet baddie. I will only respond to correspondence through Doey Mothiall Attorneys and only after they have proven they are a real company and that Jaco Dersen and Estelle Theron are real people residing at the addresses they've supplied the registar. Johan - i've provided you proof of their nefarious activities (you requested). When will their account be suspended?"
Seconds later, i received a bounced email - the Doey Mothiall Attorneys edress does not exist.
Jaco Dercksen kept up his threats with, "Today you file a complaint at our service provider, stating that we have spammed you, the result, our service provider suspended our service. Why do you have to lie like this, seems you cannot handle healthy competition although we do not see you as competition. I am asking you very nicely to refrain from doing idiotic things like that, we demand that you will apologize to our service provider. If you fail to do that you will meet me sooner than you think, as from December of onwards I am also a permanent resident from Knysna, then you will meet me face to face. A Friendly bit of advice, leave me and my businesses alone, you do what you do best we will do the same."
Skipping past the lies about the complaint and competition, that email's tone sounded like intimidation rather than "asking nicely" which was confirmed in the next email from him in which he 'spoke' to the others, threatening violence on me: "Los hom tot desember lyk my hy is een van daai mense wat verstand in gebliksem moet word."
Considering his claim of moving to Knysna and registration of accommodation-in-knysna.co.za, i'm inclined to dig my heels in - i'm sure that most of my Knysna readers will agree that we don't have space for another arsehole - we have too many already:)
After so many words, i still don't know who exactly Jaco Dercksen truly is. Does he live in Brits or in Richards Bay? Does he live in both? He claimed to be a lawyer in a Citizen article but i don't see evidence of those qualifications anywhere else, including on his LinkedIn profiles #1 and #2. IOL picked up on that article which said that he was representing the family of 2 children who'd been shot. In no way do i imply that he was involved in the crime but one commentator was obviously not a fan of him as he/she stated, "Investigate Jaco Dercksen too..." On another page, his NHLRA includes debt collecting as part of their service. But on NHLRA's Twitter account, on September 20, 32 tweets seemed a lot more like spam than anything to do with NHLRA.
In 2010, he was the chair of the Concerned Rate Payers Association (CORPA) which is mentioned online regards 2 issues, one i'm actually interested in which is whether withholding rates is legal. Apparently he went ahead and was intending nationwide ratepayers' organisations holding the South African municipalities hostage. Where his credibility, integrity and intentions fall apart is that Dercksen claimed to field "300-400 e-mails and telephone calls a day, and in two months has built up a database of 4million people." If that were true, he'd have run, basically single-handedly, the biggest information collection campaign in our country's history. And, with so much support, why would CORPA have vanished the same year?
I have an unsettling feeling in my tummy when thinking about Jaco Derksen. How am i suppose to trust his offer of a Web Holidays Club Card when, like his accommodation listing offer, there's nothing to back it up and not enough info to answer simple questions such as "What is the discount?" and, as claimed, "What travel services are on board?"
Save on Accommodation 365 days a year by signing up for a Web-Holidays Club Card.
At only R45 per month you can take advantage of all special deals advertised by Establishment Owners specifically for Web-Holiday Club Card Members.
What happened to that initial, proactive and positive attitude of Johan Hurter at JW Hosting? How did he devolve from suspending Leisure Stay Group's account to giving them a final warning after i'd presented more evidence of their wrongdoings? And after Jaco had threatened me. Had he bowed to similar threats? I'm hoping that this blog makes him reconsider.
The bad news is that Jaco Dercksen and Estelle Theron have started mail accounts and domains offshore. The domain for the email he contacted me with has been mentioned on Hellopeter. It's registered in Thailand to a different person i.e. Fuucknut van Smeerden. If that bizarre name belongs to a real person then he's apparently living in Meerensee (which is in Richard's Bay, where Jaco also claims to live) and has the cell number 079 531 8999. But Jaco's number is suppose to be 072 923 4632. Or maybe Jaco, who may be a master at evil spamming but is far from being a net genius, has finally learned to use a fake name.
Questions i would have asked would have included:
- Why do you spam millions of people?
- Have you moved some emails and domains overseas so as to escape the law in SA?
- Why do not list all accommodation owners who pay you?
- Why do you not communicate with many who contact you?
- What integrity and substance is there to your web holiday card?
- Why do you threaten instead of providing info that supports your product and the marketing thereof?
Jaco and Estelle were going to be given a fair chance at representing themselves but the threats now make communication pointless. I will leave it to the police to follow up on the names, telephone numbers and addresses. I have a court case to prepare for a different baddie abusing the internet (one who already lives in Knysna).
The sad reality of the internet is that because evildoers weren't punished for their early crimes, they've grown into monsters that, along with corporate abusers, are rapidly devouring the freedom we were promised. Natural selection doesn't care that the tools may have changed. The "insensitive parasites" (as someone on a forum described Jaco and Estelle) are driven by greed and narcissism that may defeat us, the masses that do less each year to protect ourselves.
The net isn't free. The net isn't safe.
For now, however, i hope i achieved the goal of making you safer now that you're more aware of the inappropriately named Leisure Stay Group. A bad deal or a criminal? What did you decide?
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