SA Community Crime Watch (SACCW) has warned of a "national extortion syndicate" targeting SA men.
Guys are contacted via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and threatened with exposure of a rather intimate kind if they don’t cough up some cash.
The creepy chancers' modus operandi is to download pornographic images from the internet on victims’ social media platforms “that implicate the victim personally”, explains Steven King, head of SACCW. An increasing number of extortion reports are being reported, he adds.
SACCW, a non-profit crime and information centre, is appealing to the public to come forward with any information that will assist them, the Hawks, and the police in their investigation.
Steven has confirmed two cases – in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – have been linked to the group, that appears to be operating from Limpopo, and reported to the police.
YOU spoke to both these men, Patrick Waite (49) from Durban and Frans Herbst (32) from Pretoria – both of whom have experience in law enforcement and managed to nip the con in the bud before things could go any further.
Patrick, who heads up Alert South Africa, an organisation that helps the public, police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to gather information, says the syndicate seems to mainly target people working in law enforcement agencies. “These people stand to lose credibility should the syndicate post pornographic material to their Facebook pages,” he says.
Patrick Waite, one of the victims. PHOTO: Supplied
Patrick says he was recently contacted by a “woman” who befriended him on Facebook and WhatsApp. He accepted her friendship request as “it’s natural for men to be curious when a woman contacts them”, he says.
The woman, who appeared to be in her early 20s, got his cellphone number from his Facebook page and sent him a WhatsApp message.
“She said ‘hi’ and I asked her what I can help her with. She asked me to send her some naked pictures of myself. I told her no, I wasn’t going to do that. She then sent me a picture of a penis and wanted to blackmail me by sending it to my wife or posting it to Facebook. I told her I wasn’t married.”
The person threatened to post the picture to the pages of all his Facebook contacts – although he managed to kill the conversation before any money could be extorted.
With the help of a friend who also works in law enforcement, Patrick then traced the number to be the Giyani Shopping Centre in Limpopo.The fake Facebook page was also being used in an internet café based in the centre.
Frans, who works for a cash-in-transit protection company, had a similar experience on Tuesday. He was sent a Facebook request from a Caroline Sonia – although Frans doesn’t believe it was a woman at all.
She then contacted him on WhatsApp and sent him a pornographic picture of a naked woman and asked that he send her a full-frontal nude shot of himself. He refused. Shortly afterwards he received a message from another number telling him he was sexually harassing her sister.
“The ‘sister’ sent me a picture of a naked man’s body with my head Photoshopped on it. Anyone who knows me can clearly see it is not me. The ‘woman’ demanded I pay R2 000 or she would release the photo on social media.”
With the help of a friend in the Hawks, he tried to meet up with the person personally to hand over the money. The person turned down the request to meet, demanding more money instead.
Steven says people approached in this way are urged to open a case at their local police station and inform SACCW. “All information provided will be held in strictest confidence. We are aware there are many victims and require the assistance of communities to bring criminals to book.”
Contact the following members for assistance:
Steven King (SACCW) - 082 920 5799
Marius Jacobs (SACCW) - 079 898 4539
Lourens Smit (SASR/SACCW) - 084 317 4149
Alternatively Email: Mike Venter (SACCW) - firstname.lastname@example.org