The Dangers of Sexting in South Africa

“Send nudes” pops up on your phone. It’s a message from a potential partner you “met” on one of the many dating apps out there. You’re being asked to share intimate photos of yourself and engage in what has become a typical exchange in this day and age: “sexting”. You wonder, should you play along with hopes that it will confirm your interest in this person? Or do you play it safe, knowing that sharing pictures online can be a risky business? Technology is changing the way we date and are intimate, but there are many drawbacks, and the dangers of ‘sexting’ are widespread and potentially devastating.

A closer look at the context: just how prevalent is “sexting” in South Africa?

It’s estimated that just over a third of our population possess smartphones, but that doesn’t mean that South Africans aren’t as digitally savvy or “connected” as other countries. Many South Africans rely on technology in their sex and dating lives, in fact, a 2017 survey by the Kinsey Institute revealed that 77% of South Africans “sexted” and that we are the top “sexting” nation in the world. Yes, the world!

Does this mean there is added pressure to “sext”?

You may be tempted to take an explicit snap and send it “because everyone’s doing it”. Or other pressures may come into play. According to the online counselling services provider, Mobieg these pressures include not wanting to come across as a prude, feeling guilty if you are in a long-distance relationship or thinking it is the only way to prove you are attracted to a person, amongst others.

What exactly are the dangers of sexting?

Of course, if you do find yourself seriously considering sending an explicit picture to someone online, you still need to know the potential negative consequences of “sexting”. Because of the increase in this activity in the country, the South African Police Service sent out a warning about the dangers of sexting. The ones to take note of are:

  • The loss of control and power of who sees the image

Essentially, once your explicit image, video or message has been sent online, you lose control of how it is distributed and who will see it. This also means that you might not be aware of how it is being used by someone who wasn’t necessarily the intended recipient.

  • Humiliation and psychological consequences

Because an explicit image on the internet can spread like proverbial wildfire, it can be particularly humiliating and embarrassing if it gets circulated amongst people you know, such as family or colleagues. It can lead to bullying and cyberbullying. Of course, this kind of shame can very easily lead to depression and, in some tragic instances, suicide or self-harm.

  • Possibility of being “sextorted”

A combination of the words “sex” and “extortion”, this means someone blackmailing an individual using the explicit images as leverage. This is often an older person trying to extort someone younger (or a minor).

  • Being a victim of “revenge porn”

For those not in the know, “revenge porn” refers to sharing or distributing of nude or sexually explicit material of someone without their permission to humiliate or “get back” at them.

What does the law say?

In the past, anyone seeking legal recourse against someone who shared intimate images without permission, would’ve been advised to go the criminal route and lay a charge for what’s known as crimen injuria, which means your dignity has been infringed upon and you could sue for damages. “Thankfully, the law is evolving with the digital age,” says Bayanda Mdingi, a legal advisor at LAW FOR ALL.

In 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Films and Publications Amendment Act that made revenge porn illegal in South Africa into law. “Any person found guilty of sharing explicit images without the person’s consent will face time behind bars or hefty fines” warns Mdingi. If the victim is unidentifiable in the content, the perpetrator could face two years in jail and/or pay a fine of up to R150 000. However, if the victim can be identified in any way, the perpetrator could spend four years in prison and/or pay up to R300 000.

For example, if an ex-lover, a former friend or a complete stranger maliciously shares explicit images or videos of you on social / online platforms or uploads them onto pornographic websites, you can lay criminal charges against them.

Not to mention, any sexually explicit images that is shared of anyone under 18 (even if both parties are under 18) may be classified as child pornography. This means that the person who takes the image, the person who receives the image and any person who shares the image may be found guilty of producing or distributing child pornography.

Top tips for dealing with threats of being blackmailed or “sextorted”

Over the last couple of years, “sextortion” scams on WhatsApp have been on the rise in South Africa, specifically targeting men (of course, everyone is vulnerable). But, as Carte Blanche suggests, there are steps you can take to help build a case if you want to report the incident to the police and protect yourself from becoming a victim of “sextortion”:

  • Do not delete any of the messages. Yes, you might think that deleting the messages might make everything go away, but that isn’t the case. Instead, take screenshots of the threats from the scammer as these can possibly be used as evidence in a legal case.
  • Contact a lawyer immediately and them about what your legal options are.
  • Talk to someone you trust and ask them to accompany you to the police station and open a case.
  • Discontinue all communication with the scammer
  • Report the extortionist to the messaging or social platform they are contacting you on.
  • In addition to legal assistance, try and get some counselling as well. This can be a traumatic ordeal and you will need all the support possible.

How can I protect myself from becoming a victim of “sextortion”?

  • The moment you start a conversation with someone online, do some research on them. Pop their name into Google and see what comes up.
  • Because most scammers use images of other people, it’s also best to do a reverse image search on their profile picture.
  • Don’t share personal information; remember, this is a complete stranger.
  • If the person seems quite adamant about getting images -whether explicit or not- from you, it’s probably best to block them.
  • Lastly, because of the high risk, it’s probably not a good idea to share any explicit images at all. However…
  • If you feel as though you can trust the person, it’s better to send intimate photos that do not show your face or any other identifiable marks, such as a tattoo or birthmark.

Take a moment to think before you click “send”.

Technology is changing the way we navigate our dating lives and intimate relationships. But, no matter how you choose to connect with potential partners or keep your relationships exciting, it’s always important to consider the risk and take steps to protect yourself. Not only can you not control what happens once intimate content is on the internet, but you also cannot always trust what people will do with it. 

We’ve Got Your Back!

If you have fallen victim to someone sharing intimate images without consent or a sextortion scam, it’s best to seek caring legal advice immediately. LAW FOR ALL policies are pocket-friendly and provide comprehensive cover for whatever legal challenge life throws your way. For more information on how LAW FOR ALL can become your friend in times of need and help you navigate life have a look at our policies here.


Phishing Scams in South Africa: Don’t Take the Bait

Phishing scams in South Africa occur almost every day, which means you could be just a click away from losing lots of hard-earned money.  It’s been reported that we are in the top five most targeted countries in the world. While some attempts at conning you out of your cash are reasonably obvious (remember that message about you inheriting a portion of a foreign prince’s fortune?), others are carefully crafted calls to action designed to deceive you. So, it’s important to know what to look out for when it comes to suspicious emails from your bank.


What are phishing scams?

Phishing is a means of online fraud that sees cybercriminals sending out emails claiming to be from a legitimate company or financial organisation in an attempt to steal your personal information. They then use your data to pinch your identity and even money from your bank account.

When it comes to bank phishing scams, you will receive an email “from your bank” that contains a link to a fake website. This site will look like an exact duplicate of your bank’s page and will prompt you to “update your information.” Fraudsters will then be in possession of your username, password, ID number and other confidential info. Needless to say, the criminals will have unrestricted access to your bank account.

Thankfully, because these emails are technically spam, they often get filtered into your Junk Folder, which should automatically make you question its legitimacy.

However, there has been an increase in “spear phishing”, which is a more targeted scam that seems to be customised to appeal to an individual’s interest. What makes this particularly dangerous is that it can bypass some anti-virus defences.

Protect yourself against phishing scams in South Africa with these handy prevention tips:

  • Your bank will NEVER send you an email asking you to update your info. All South African banks are pretty clear on this.
  • Your bank’s website should have examples of bogus emails, so check it out if you are uncertain about the message you received.
  • Do not click on any link in an email that suggests it will take you to your bank’s website.
  • Make sure you use the web address (URL) you were given when you signed up for internet banking.
  • Type your bank’s URL directly into your browser and look out for the “lock” icon (this means the site is secure).
  • Never log onto your internet banking in an internet café or where multiple people might be on the network.
  • Update your anti-virus software regularly.

Remember- unsolicited correspondence from your bank is always fishy, and if you commit the pointers as mentioned earlier to memory, you won’t easily become a victim of phishing scams in South Africa.

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LAW FOR ALL policies are pocket-friendly and provide comprehensive cover for whatever legal challenge life throws your way. For more information on how LAW FOR ALL can become your friend in times of need and help you navigate life have a look at our policies here.


Identity Theft in SA: Fact or Fiction?

Something that only happens in Hollywood movies or a genuine threat to South African consumers? If recent statistics are anything to go by, identity theft in South Africa and the theft of personal information is more fact than fiction. Not only have reported incidents increased by 200% over the last six years, but it also costs the economy a staggering loss of R1 billion annually.

What is Identity Theft?

According to Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, Managing Director at LAW FOR ALL, identity theft in South Africa occurs when criminals steal personal information for their benefit. “The criminal fraudulently assumes the victims’ identity to obtain credit, loans or other benefits in the victim’s name, often resulting in a mountain of debt.” Apart from the financial benefits, criminals often steal another’s identity to hide their own. The “new” identity is then used to:

  • obtain employment as a foreign citizen;
  • claim social grants;
  • escape criminal prosecution; or to
  • claim life insurance policy benefits.

How is personal information obtained?

Criminals usually obtain private information such as ID numbers, banking and card details, home or postal addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and signatures through practices that range from basic to sophisticated, warns Nagtegaal. Some techniques used include:

  • Intercepting or diverting bank transactions;
  • Obtaining personal information via social media;
  • Hacking into computers or email accounts;
  • Theft of ID documents and bank cards out of a purse/wallet;
  • Theft of account statements in the post;
  • Obtaining confidential mail in the garbage; and
  • Telephonic impersonation and encouragement to disclose or update information.

Techniques such as phishing and pharming have increasingly become popular amongst cybercriminals. Phishing is used to obtain a victim’s usernames and passwords. Usually, an email will be sent that appears to be from a trustworthy entity such as a bank, containing a link to a bogus webpage where personal and financial information is updated and collected. Pharming, on the other hand, is a more advanced technique used by hackers who obtain access to a server and redirect traffic to bogus web pages to get confidential information. 

Steps to take if you realise your identity has been stolen.

Nine out of ten times, consumers are unaware that their personal information has been jeopardised. Often the breach of information only comes to light years later when a victim’s credit application is declined by a financial institution, an angry vendor requests payment of arrear accounts or civil claims are instituted. Identity theft could have an adverse effect on consumer’s credit profile and could be difficult to prove, but as soon as it comes to light, it is essential that the victim takes the necessary steps to avoid further loss. Here’s what to do should you fall victim:

Step 1: Gather as much evidence and information as possible. This will help the police with their investigation. Ask the companies where your ID was used for a copy of the documents submitted by the thief.

Step 2: Report the matter to the SAPS and SAFPS. Ask the police for the case number and a copy of the report. The bank or other financial institutions may request you to submit a copy. It’s also a good idea to take down the name and contact details of the assisting police officer.

Step 3: Inform the credit bureaus of the fraudulent activity. If you haven’t already, obtain a credit report to see which creditors have blacklisted you.

Step 4 Contact your bank to close existing accounts and to open new accounts and create new PINs.

Step 5: Lodge a query with all creditors. Confirm whether any activity has taken place in your name. Your accounts may have to be closed. Refer any disputes with creditors regarding transactions in your name to the Credit Ombudsman.

Prosecution and Punishment for Identity Theft in South Africa

South Africa does not have specific legislation that prosecutes criminals for Identity Theft crimes. “Thieves are usually charged with common law crimes such as fraud or forgery and first-time offenders could face up to 15 years in prison where amounts involved exceed R500 000. Subsequent offenders could face punishment of 20 to 25 years or more” confirms Nagtegaal.

Tips protect your personal information:

  1. Always keep your ID and bank cards in a safe place.
  2. When drawing money at an ATM be aware of your environment and protect your PIN.
  3. Activate the SMS notification function on your bank account to inform you of any account activity.
  4. Shred documents, such as bank statements, that contain personal information.
  5. Be cautious when providing personal information via the internet or social media.
  6. Do not provide personal information such as credit card information telephonically.
  7. Obtain a credit report every year.

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LAW FOR ALL’s experienced lawyers can provide legal advice and guidance on matters relating to identity theft. Be to have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s comprehensive policies. Sign up today!