Student warns of modelling scam

Cape Town - Student Liesel Botha* thought she had found the answer to paying next year's university fees when a friend gave her the number of a ''modelling agent''.

The fresh-faced aspiring teacher had always wanted to model and finally decided to make her dream come true.

At the same time, the work over the December holidays would bring in enough to cover the following year's tuition fees.

She thought she might even be able to buy a small car with the extra income.

But once Liesel had deposited the R500 to be ''registered'' for a job that would pay a whopping R150 000 followed by a year of lucrative contracts, the ''agent'' vanished.

''I don't want this to happen to anybody else,'' she told News24.

''It is not so much about the money... but... so that other people are not ripped off.''

She said when her friend gave her a contact number for a modelling job, a woman called 'Chante Smith' told her she had a lovely job on her books just for her.

‘They make it sound so amazing’

''They made it seem like this big amazing thing; that they came from overseas to South Africa for models because it is cheaper here.

''I got a bit suspicious when she said I would earn R150 000 but she explained that it would be a lot because it was going to be converted from Euros.''

Liesel explained that every question she had was given a plausible answer.

''Everything I saw I thought: it must be legit. They make it sound so amazing and great and whatnot.''

She even did her homework - or so she thought - and found Facebook pages with glowing references of the work of Next in London, Paris and Milan. Little did she know that this was a doppelganger to the well known modelling agency with the same name.

All seemed above board, even the selection of the big four banks that she could pay at.

All except her own smaller bank, but that was not a problem. She was told she could do a money transfer at Pep or Spar instead.

Another red flag went up for Liesel but the woman glibly explained that this was a facility set up for school girls who did not have their own bank account yet.

Niggling feeling

She deposited the money but the niggling feeling that something was wrong would not go away.

That night she did a thorough Google search and found a site warning that this was a scam.

Various contributors to the website Report a Crime say the woman's aliases include Chante Brits, Elizabeth du Preez and Liz Jacobs and one contributor said she was ''active'' around the campus of the North West University.

Liesel said she tried to get her money back by playing on the woman's sympathy, saying she could not afford it anymore, and there were promises of a refund.

''Then I woke up and saw that her picture had disappeared from my Whatsapp and the phone does not even ring. Don't they have a conscience?'' she said.

''I don't want little girls and other women to get hurt. You think, 'Wow your dreams are going to come true' but basically you are going to get scammed out of money.''

Plans to go to police

She is not ready to speak to her friend yet about where the number came from and was planning to go to the police.

Lauren Livesey, a division manager at Boss models in Cape Town, told News24, ''In terms of the fashion industry, there are no requests for money upfront to secure work...

''There are no registration fees and it is incorrect that you need a book to get work. If an agency sees you have potential, they will arrange it on your behalf.''

She said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably was.

Livesey said aspiring models should check on agencies through a central register kept with the National Association of Modelling Agencies

When News24 attempted to contact the "agent", the call did not ring.

*Liesel Botha is not her real name.

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