WhatsApp ‘sextortion’ scam back on the rise in SA

While not new to South Africa, a scam involving ‘sextortion’ via social media, most notably WhatsApp, has come into the spotlight again, following a report that a Johannesburg businessman paid over R170,000 to keep explicit photos of himself from being posted online.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, the man requested the help of security specialist Mike Bolhuis – after which the extortion stopped.

It was reported in July 2018 that the scam – usually conducted over WhatsApp or Facebook – works as follows:

  • An ‘attractive woman’ contacts a man via WhatsApp and sends them erotic photos of herself;
  • She then asks the man for nude photos of him in return;
  • When she receives nude photos, she demands money – with the threat of making the photos public.

The ‘attractive woman’ is typically a man, however, who demands the money from the victim.

Bolhuis told talk radio 702 on Monday that he has seen a spate of ‘sextortion’ incidents, with limited dedicated police resources dealing with as mnay as 1,000 cases daily. He told the Sunday Times that he has investigated as many as 150 cases in the past month alone.

“We suspect that these sextortion rings are operating in the big cities like Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg,” he said.

“They scour the market and see what is the latest trend that would work. The one that has always been a good thing is sexual communication.”

Bolhuis told 702 that privacy will soon be as expensive a commodity as water, due to the increasing sophistication of cyber criminals.

“The public is sometimes under the impression that your information is private on WhatsApp. Let me warn the public today, there is no such thing as privacy.”

“The most expensive thing in the future will be your privacy and not water, you can hack everything,” Bolhuis said.

Read: The provinces and municipalities in South Africa where corruption is most reported: study

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WhatsApp ‘sextortion’ scam back on the rise in SA