Tow-truck driver linked to advert soliciting semi-nude pictures
A Port Elizabeth tow-truck driver has found himself at the centre of a scam in which young women were lured into posing semi-nude and topless for modelling jobs using his BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) profiles.
Christiaan Beer, 21, who works for Precision Tow-In, claims the BBM profiles on three of his five cellphones were hacked by a phony agency that claimed to be opening a branch in Port Elizabeth.
His accounts were used to advertise a call for young women to send pictures of themselves to another BBM profile used by a Tamsin du Toit, who claimed to be the chief executive of Boss Modelling Agency.
While Beer admits to posting the advert once on his BBM traffic alert group, BB Traffic Updates, he is adamant he was not involved in additional posts calling for women to send semi-nude or topless pictures to Du Toit.
“I thought it was a good opportunity for my fiancee so I sent a picture of her to Du Toit and she said they would pay R4 500 per hour that she modelled, fully clothed. They then said they would give me R1 500 per referral,” Beer said.
But Boss Models director Linda Bruchhausen said they did not have any such deal and were not opening a branch in the Bay. She also said a Du Toit did not work for the company.
“We avoid social media scouting because this type of thing gives us a terrible name. And worse still, a lot of young people get caught out,” she said.
The women were asked to send seminude or topless pictures to Du Toit’s BBM profile to ensure their bodies fitted the profile of the fake agency’s retail clientele.
Those between the ages of 13 and 22 were targeted in exchange for modelling contracts, bursaries and scholarships.
One of the victims is a 13-year-old girl from Algoa Park in Port Elizabeth.
The girl’s family sent a picture of her modelling a bikini last Thursday after seeing an advert posted on BB Traffic Updates, which was created by Beer.
The first advert and additional posts calling for semi-nude and topless pictures were all sent to the traffic alert group using Beer’s name.
The mother of the teenager, who asked that none of her family members be named, said her aunt sent two pictures of the girl to the BBM profile of Du Toit before they realised something was wrong.
“We were asked for a photo of my child and I took one and sent it to my aunt, who sent it on. After the first photo, we were told they were very impressed,” she said.
“We were then asked to send a photo of her in a bikini and heels. That’s when alarm bells went off.”
The girl’s father said while they would not be laying a complaint with police, they were worried the pictures would be used for someone’s “sick pleasure”.
Boss Models, which has offices in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, represents some of South Africa’s top models.
Bruchhausen said she had received two complaints from Port Elizabeth, one from the Algoa Park teenager’s family and the other from a Bay woman who sent topless pictures of herself.
This woman declined to speak to The Herald.
“We managed to find the guy [Beer] after we asked the parents of the 13-year-old to send us screen shots of the conversation,” Bruchhausen said.
After sending the picture of his fiancee, Beer registered his three BBM profiles with the agency’s website which offered to pay him R1 500 for finding more models.
His fiancee has since declined the work offer, according to Beer, who said he could not remember the website address he had used to register the BBM profiles.
“I sent the advert to a few contacts on BBM because I thought it was real, but when I tried to get [access] to my BBMs [two weeks ago] all my passwords were changed,” Beer said.
He said he was notified by other people that his “hacked” BBM profiles were being used to solicit pictures of women posing topless and semi-naked.
The messages sent from Beer’s BBM profile notified people of a modelling competition under Boss Modelling Agency.
It asked for pictures and back stories, with five finalists to be announced early next year.
Boss’s name has been used before in similar scams.
Bruchhausen said: “It’s just predators and we get them at least once a year. But this is the first time we actually managed to find the guy.
“We have not laid a complaint yet, as we are trying to find a direct link between the scam and this guy before we take action.”
But Beer insisted his intentions were completely innocent and that he too had been a victim of the scam.
“I thought it was legit,” he said. “I asked the BBM contact that sent me the advert where they are located.”
Beer said he was told their offices were at King’s Court Shopping Centre in Buffelsfonteint Road.
“I went there because I was upset, but I couldn’t find anything,” he said.
Beer said he had since received threats from angry parents but was prepared to meet anyone at a police station to explain.
He said he was also contacted by the police last week, who questioned him about the scam.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said no case had been opened and that the scam was not being investigated.
Beer said he had not laid a complaint after his BBM profiles were “hacked” because he had not had time to do so.