A scam in which family members of prominent soccer players are sent SMSes alleging that the players are in trouble and in need of money is picking up momentum.
The latest player whose family has been targeted is Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns marksman Katlego “Killer” Mphela.
A relative informed the Pretoria News on Monday that an SMS had been received from someone pretending to be Mphela and saying he was having problems with police in Witbank and needed airtime. The relative said she found it odd that Mphela would ask for airtime when he had a contract phone.
“I sent the airtime and demanded to know what was wrong. He sent another SMS claiming he had been arrested in Witbank for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“The officers were allegedly demanding R3 500 for bail, but he had only R2 000 in his credit card.
“I asked him if they had taken his blood to have it tested.”
The relative was then sent an SMS giving the contact details for a Captain Khumalo. After speaking to Khumalo, the relative said she sent another SMS, saying she was going to Witbank with a lawyer.
“I then received an SMS saying I must not speak to any lawyer and I should send the money through CashSend using his card,” she said.
Thinking she was communicating with Mphela, the relative told him that he should not tell the police that she was an attorney. She would speak to the station commander to try to find out why they were making him pay bail without his first appearing in court. This seemed to spook the other party and they stopped communicating.
The Pretoria News then called the number, but there was no answer. An SMS was received that said: “SMS me please.” Upon sending an SMS trying to establish if the message was indeed from Mphela and if he was in trouble, the Pretoria News received a response asking for airtime.
Further questions were asked, and the person did not respond.
The relative said she suspected this was the same scam in which relatives of two other Bafana players, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Lebogang Mokoena, were targeted. Mokoena went to the police in Rustenburg, who opened a docket on fraud.
The perpetrators are said to be hacking into the players’ cellphones to use their contacts to ask for money.
The SIM cards are allegedly de-registered and then used by the fraudsters.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Hlathi said on Monday that he had called the number given to him for “Captain Khumalo” and the man who answered was not a police officer.
“When I spoke to him, he was rude and hung up on me. He does not sound like a police officer. We would have been informed if Katlego (Mphela) was in our custody,” he said.
Bafana Bafana spokesman Mahlomola Morake and Mamelodi Sundowns spokesman Kabelo Mosito said they had heard about the scam and it was seriously affecting players and their families.