What the Miss Teen SA Instagram scam reminds us about sending nudes


Now, I have never been a fan of fake goods and since I also can't afford a real Gucci fanny pack I'll just leave the purchase to my fantasies and get the more budget-friendly H&M one. 

Buying faux goods with the full knowledge of exactly what that they are - imitations - is vastly different to being duped into sharing your nudes for a relationship or competition though. Beyond bags, shoes and watches, preying on the naive and vulnerable, online con artists tap into people's aspirations, e.g. finding love or being 'discovered' as a model.

Read: I’m a tech-savvy 20-something – but an internet scammer almost conned me out of thousands

It recently came to the attention of the South African public that a fake Instagram account (@missteensa) was created by fraudsters to lure young women into direct messaging pictures of themselves in the vain hopes of being chosen for one of the coveted spots in the Miss Teen SA pageant.

It started with DMs on Instagram, where people were asked to add a modelling agency's head scout based in the U.S. on Whatsapp. The number was a +1 (American) number, so it even seemed legit. From there women were asked to send pictures of themselves - from clothed to nude. Nudes were allegedly requested to 'check for tattoos' on these women's bodies.

The bio of this faux account also promised attractive rewards like R500 000 worth of prizes and a modelling contract.

Buzz South Africa noted that the page had the Miss Teen SA logo as its profile pic and posted pictures from past Miss Teen events in an attempt to solidify its legitimacy.

The account has since been closed but I’ve already spotted a new one that’s popped up - @official_missteensa. Nothing has been posted to this one as of yet, but the mere fact that someone felt the need to register said account is disconcerting.

When the account was first discovered, a statement was issued by Sun International, the license holder of Miss South Africa. The Juice reported that the statement highlighted the following:

 “The account makes use of the official Miss South Africa 2017 branding, which has been manipulated and claims to be the official account for Miss Teen SA.”

Former Miss SA, Claudia Henkel noted the following, “Sun International and its partners have no affiliation with the Miss Teen SA Instagram account that have abused our Miss South Africa logo to lend credibility to this fake page. We do not endorse any content published or prizes offered on this page. We have escalated our concerns and are taking the necessary steps to ensure that we address this as a matter of urgency.”

We spoke to social media law specialist, speaker, co-author of 'Don't Film Yourself Having Sex: And Other Legal Advice For The Age Of Social Media' and the recently launched book geared towards teenagers in particular, 'Selfies, sexts and smartphones', Emma Sadleir about whether sending nude pictures online is ever safe.

She says that one should always live by the billboard rule. Before sending a pic think about whether you'd be comfortable seeing that picture of yourself on a billboard for everyone to see. The online space is such a dangerous one, one that sees pictures shared instantaneously; and in the era of the screengrab, the evidence lasts forever.

Sadleir notes very importantly that it's not only those who ask under 18s to send nude pics that are being unlawful but that an under 18 can actually by law be prosecuted for sending nude pics online (even if the pic is of their own body) for spreading child pornography.

If you have to ask whether it's a good idea to send a nude, be sure to always apply the billboard rule.

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