KZN student falls victim to campus catfishing
WHEN a University of KwaZuluNatal student set up her Facebook account on the search for a young, good looking and rich man, she never imagined she would fall prey to an imposter. Seemingly desperate for a man who ticked all her boxes, Phumelele Ngcobo, 21, never imagined she could be catfished.
Being catfished is a world phenomenon, where people online impersonate others to dupe unsuspecting victims, usually for cash, explicit photographs or for other criminal activities.
In some instances, young women were found to be old women.
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to get a boyfriend in college. I wanted a rich guy and the first guy that inboxed me happened to have all the qualities I needed in a man at the time. He was rich and popular,” said Ngcobo of Newlands East, Durban.
Ngcobo’s admirer was studying on the same campus.
But when they crossed paths in university corridors the young man appeared unmoved but was eager online in their chats.
“Every time he saw me on campus he showed no interest in me.
“He lied and said we couldn’t be seen in public since his family was well known he’d like to keep our relationship under wraps,” said Ngcobo.
Months later they exchanged explicit photographs privately as their virtual romance blossomed online. After the photographs, the man requested a R1000 loan from Ngcobo, claiming he had had a fight with his parents, but Ngcobo insisted they meet and talk in person first. He then threatened to expose her nude photographs on social media.
“I then told my friends about my relationship and we confronted the guy who was in the pictures.”
But he was confused as to who she was. “We showed him the account and he said he doesn’t own a Facebook account,” said Ngcobo.She never reported the incident to the police but sought advice from legal company Shepstone and Wylie. The company advised her on best practises online. Shepstone and Wylie chief executive, Advocate Verlie Oosthuizen, said the catfish trend was on the increase in South Africa. She said some people were falling victim to catfishing syndicates while others did it for their own “amusement”. “There are weekly complaints with us. Sometimes victims are asked for money, especially in instances where it is a criminal syndicate. When there is a personal relationship between the perpetrator and the victim it is usually not money that is asked for, it will be an attempt to humiliate the victim and it is a form of cyber bullying,” said Oosthuizen.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane said they were aware of the criminal activity and cases are reported weekly of young women falling prey to the syndicate.