How scammers target single South African women online – then make them pay and pay for ‘gifts’

Business Insider SA
  • South African women are approached online to establish friendships that eventually lead to them being sent "gifts", the Financial Intelligence Centre says.
  • The gifts are as fake as the courier companies set up to supposedly deliver them – and the "fines" later demanded from the victims.
  • The "compromising" photos sometimes solicited from the victims, though, are not fake.

Single South African women are targeted in an online scam involving fake courier companies delivering fake gifts and, sometimes, "compromising" pictures or video, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) says in its latest update on scams.

The FIC regularly publishes the broad outlines of scams based on actual cases, though it does not disclose the details of real incidents.

Mostly single women, the FIC says, are approached online by scammers using fake personas. They are eventually offered expensive gifts, such as jewellery or laptops. These are supposedly shipped to South Africa using international courier companies, which have credible-looking websites associated with them.

"Victims then receive telephone calls and e-mail messages from these fake courier services to pay 'clearance' and 'delivery' fees for the parcels."

When contacted about those fees, the "surprised" sender offers to refund these payments.

There are several further twists to the scam. The "courier" will notify the recipient that foreign currency discovered in the parcel requires further payment of customs fees, and that the company staff face arrest if those payments are not made. There are also claims for insurance payments and fines, and "should victims fail to pay these fees, they will receive telephone calls and letters of demand from non-existing attorneys," the FIC says.

"Payment requests continue until these criminals have extorted as much money as they can from victims."

Although the scam alert does not specifically address sextortion, the FIC warns of the need to be cautious when sharing photos and videos with online acquaintances because "criminals blackmail their targets using compromising material."

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