KZN stu­dent falls vic­tim to cam­pus cat­fish­ing

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - PUMLA MSOMI

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.

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