Home South African ‘Sextortion’ business alive and well in SA, experts warn

‘Sextortion’ business alive and well in SA, experts warn

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During the Covid-19 pandemic, the internet was a lifeline to many but it has also led to an increase in the number of predators.

Matimu Ndlovu, 19, from Nkomo Village, Giyani, in Limpopo, was arrested after he extorted R28,000 from a South African man living and working in the US. Nkomo posed as a white woman and lured his victim. He managed to get his victim to share nudes which he used to blackmail the man. Picture: Supplied.

THE INTERNET Watch Foundation (IWF) has noted that since 2019 there has been a 1,058% increase in the number of web pages showing images and videos of children being encouraged to perform sexual acts.

This is known as “self-generated” child abuse.

In 2022, there were 63,050 reports of children being groomed, coerced or tricked into performing the acts on camera, a huge rise from the 5,443 reported in 2019.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, children turned to the internet to learn, socialise and play. The internet became a huge part of the lives of many people all over the world and helped millions adjust to lockdown. Social media channels, especially, surged in popularity during this time.

But as much as the internet was a lifeline to many, it has also led to an increase in the number of predators targeting children online.

Private Investigators and the Limpopo SAPS tracked down Matimu Ndlovu to this house in Nkomo Village, Giyani. Police confiscated his cellphone, which was used in the extortion racket he was running from his home. Picture: Supplied

And it’s not just children who fall victim to scammers and extortionists. “Sextotion” is on the rise in SA.

Recently, a collaborative effort between private investigators and the Limpopo SAPS led to the arrest of a 19-year-old Limpopo man after he extorted R28,000 from a South African man living in the US.

The investigation, headed by lead investigator at Royal Investigations John Alexander and Giyani detectives sergeants Micheal Shivuri and Charles Ngobeli, led to the apprehension of Matimu Ndlovu from Nkomo Village, Giyani.

Alexander said the arrest came after a meticulous two-week investigation into the extortion scheme that had been targeting vulnerable individuals.

“According to our findings, Mr Ndlovu assumed a false identity as a white female named, Lorraine Du Preez, on Instagram. Under this guise, he targeted male victims and deceitfully convinced them to share explicit content of themselves. Once in possession of such content, he resorted to extortion tactics, threatening to disclose the explicit material to their friends and family unless they paid significant sums of money,” he said.

During the search of the suspect’s residence, investigators seized the cellphone used in the commission of the crimes.

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Alexander said the case was not an isolated incident and that they were acutely aware of the prevalence of extortionist activities in the Giyani area.

“This arrest marks the fourth such apprehension within a short span of time, underscoring the need for increased vigilance against these criminal practices. In light of this unfortunate situation, we would like to urge the general public to exercise extreme caution when engaging with individuals online and refrain from sharing explicit photographs or personal information with strangers,” he said.

“We are aware that there is a syndicate operating in Giyani which is grooming young people to get involved in these extortion rackets. They have a script and know exactly how to scam people. These guys set up bank accounts for money to be paid into and even PayPal accounts for their international victims. There is also no financial recourse for people who have been scammed in this way. Once you pay, the money is gone forever,” Alexander said.

The head of advocacy at Women and Men Against Child Abuse, Luke Lamprecht, said the increase in self-generated pornographic images was a result of the lack of sex education, especially among children between seven and 12 years.

He said the laws were different when it came to consenting adults.

“Revenge porn is unlawful in SA. The online age for sharing explicit content is 18 years. Blackmailing a person, entrapment, misrepresentation and fraud are, of course, crimes. Having said this, people also struggle in this new online and woke world we are living in. It also comes from a place of deep loneliness,” he said.

Simon Campbell-Young, from DigiGuard, a company that specialises in digital clean-ups/take downs, said it could cost between R500 to R1,000 to remove fake or illicitly compromising content.

“We can remove it from the platforms but not the general internet. We also have a solution, called Digisure, which assists the client legally to get a cease and desist order, and to prosecute a perpetrator via the police/courts. Our website is www.Digimune.com,” said Young-Campbell.

Ndlovu is due to appear again in court on August 31.

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