An alleged online dating scam ring is operating out of crime hotspot Bellville. A man accused of defrauding his victims through an online dating scam appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where he was involved in preying on the Cape’s lonely to solicit cash and extravagant gifts.

Twenty-seven-year-old Tochukwa Christopher Udeh was arrested after a Hawks operation was conducted in Belville, and was found to be in possession of laptops, mobile phones, bank cards and shipping documents that went as far as Australia.

Speaking to The South African, Hawks spokesperson, Captain Philani Nkwalase, said that the syndicate operates by creating fake online dating profile and lures their victims in by communicating via phone calls and popular instant messaging service, WhatsApp.

They build trust with the victim before beginning the requests for money and other gifts.

“Their modus operandi reportedly includes using fake profiles on the online-based dating sites to lure victims. The conversations would then build up to phone calls, emails WhatsApp messages, following which, unsuspecting victims would then be tricked into parting with money or purchasing gifts and ship them to the fraudsters,” Nkwalase said.

This is not the first time that such a syndicate is operating out of Belville.

In 2016, a Nigerian national named Ndubusi Ifediora was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after it emerged that he had defrauded lonely women out of a total of R1.2-million.

He admitted that he, along with other unknown syndicate members, made use of popular dating site Match.Com to prey on victims.

Ifediora said they used false identities and targetted women they regarded as “unattractive”.

Many reports have also emerged of a sex extortion (or “sextortion”) rings operating on WhatsApp as well.

A “female” scammer will contact a male victim via the messaging service and send erotic pictures of herself, before asking the victim to send compromising photos of himself in return. As soon as she receives the pictures, she will demand money in return for not leaking the pictures, causing public shame.

If the victim refuses to send these erotic pictures, the scammer will resort to Photoshop to create images depicting the victim as naked.

On WhatsApp’s Frequently Asked Questions page, you will find instructions on how to avoid being scammed.

You can send reports to WhatsApp by contacting them from inside the app.

– On Android: Go to WhatsApp > Menu Button > Settings > About and help > Contact Us.

– On iPhone: Go to WhatsApp > Settings > About and Help > Contact Us.

– On Windows Phone: Go to WhatsApp > more > settings > about > support.

Picture: Pixabay

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She enjoys reading the works of Stephen King, and exploring the beauty of Cape Town and its surrounds.