Online Romance Scams on the Rise in South Africa, Woman Tricked Out of R5 Million, Be Vigilant

When the bug of love stings in the heart, it is hard to ignore it. Love can spring up in the most unexpected of ways. It is a feeling that comes like thunder and strikes like lightning. Love is blind – so they say, it makes the world go round – so they attest.



The internet has made it easy for single people to find love at the click of a button. But online romance is not always what it appears to be. There are always lurking lice willing to take advantage of broken hearts

The recent arrest of eight foreign nationals termed ‘The Black Axe’ sparked a nationwide debate but the plight of the victims was seldom highlighted.

The scammers ruined the lives of their victims before disappearing. It is believed that they defrauded more than 100 victims of almost R110 million in total over the past decade.



When Cape Town businesswoman Jill Davids (an alias)met an online flame, she thought she had found her knight in shining armour. But it all ended in tears when she lost R5 million to her online bae.

Before being scammed, Davids ran a successful public relations company, whose 19 big clients included multinational companies such as Swiss Air, Air France, Emirates Airline, Air Seychelles and Milky Lane.

But having lost everything, including a mansion in Johannesburg and cars, she has now moved to Cape Town to live from hand to mouth and is dependent on Good Samaritans for financial support, reports IOL.



Social media expert Julia Setloung stated that the scammers use complicated means when targeting their victims. They do not engage in conversations with every Jill. They want lonely women who are rich and so they stalk before they strike.

Like any other cyber-criminal, their online presence is dominated by fake profiles which are difficult to trace and they often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to make it difficult for authorities to trace them.

“History has taught us that these scammers stalk their victims online. They usually rely on posts from their victims and they trace one after the other depending on wealth. That is why people are discouraged from posting their riches online.



“The romance scammers mostly target widows, divorcees and women who are in unhappy relationships. The scammers use poetic words to woo their victims and lead them into believing that they are in a serious relationship,” she stated.

Setloung went on to state that the scammers fight hard to win their victims’ trust by portraying themselves as wealthy and powerful men themselves. They then sweet-talk their way to their victims’ riches by telling them heart touching sob stories before requesting a loan.

“They come up with all sorts of stories thereafter which allow them to take money from their victims. They often portray themselves as rich and they use fake profiles which depict them as being rich. So when they ask…” she said.



Setloung added that women should be wary about online lovers who claim to be filthy rich.

“Red flags must be raised when the online lover treats himself as someone who works on an oil rig, the military or deployed overseas. Or when they are a doctor in an international organisation or working on a construction project outside the US.”

Besides the above occupations, there are other red flags women should notice. These include a profile that is too good to be true, a fast-moving relationship and claims that they need money to make specific payments.

“This story never ends in a happily ever after. It is of paramount importance for people to pay careful attention when interacting with strangers online. If their stories are laden with inconsistencies then it is a sign that the relationship is a fraudulent one,” she said.



The online dating scam business is vastly growing. In 2019, people reported losing $201 million to romance scams. That’s six times higher than it was five years prior, at $33 million in 2015.

The men, aged 35 to 47, were arrested following a massive multi-national joint operation between the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Hawks and the Federal Bureau of Investigators (FBI) in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The law enforcement task team are understood to have simultaneously raided several addresses in Cape Town before nabbing all the members of the highly organised Nigerian transnational crime group.

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