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Tinder Swindler brings romance scams back into the limelight

Netflix’s most recent must watch show, The Tinder Swindler, details the story of a man who managed to sustain a luxurious lifestyle using embezzled funds from multiple women he met on the popular dating app Tinder.

Posing as the ‘prince of the diamond industry’, Simon Leviev, real name Shimon Hayut, matched various women on Tinder and quickly arranged an overly lavish first date. Hayut often took the women to 5-star hotels for an initial coffee before whisking them away into his world of deceit.

After carefully manipulating them and developing a strong emotional bond, Shimon had multiple women in the palm of his hand. He was a smooth operator, telling women exactly what they wanted to hear and gaining their trust to embark on either a romantic relationship or a purely platonic friendship.

Shimon Hayut’s multi layered scam closely resembled a Ponzi scheme, using money from one victim to fund the playboy lifestyle used to impress another. Once he had gained the trust of another unsuspecting woman the trickery would start all over again. Often, his victims would believe him to be their boyfriend and would willingly allow him to run up huge credit card bills, thinking he would be able to cover it without an issue.

What they didn’t realise is that Hayut had no intention of repaying his debt, handing them false cheques that he knew would not be able to be cashed. Hayut had little regard for the emotional and financial toll he passed on to his victims, resorting to threats when they eventually realised the truth.

Despite Netflix’s Hollywood style portrayal of this scam, it is a poignant reminder that scams such as this are rife and preventative measures need to be taken to ensure you don’t fall victim to the next dating app deceiver. Romance fraud cases are on the rise, and since the beginning of the pandemic the number of cases coming into the Conflict International office has dramatically increased.

Were warning signs to stop the Tinder Swindler missed?

When taking on a new case here at Conflict International, we always embark on strict ‘Know Your Client’ (KYC) checks. It is important to verify that the person you are speaking to online is indeed who they claim to be. These checks should come as standard across the online dating industry, if not by the platforms themselves then by the individuals using them.

When speaking to someone online there are several questions you should be asking yourself to minimise the risk of emotionally, and financially committing to them. The world of social media makes it far too easy for someone to display a false persona. Online, rented supercars can imply ownership, with well-built friends seen to pose as bodyguards. It is important to remember that social media is far from real life, and someone’s online representation of themselves can be far from their reality.

The story presented by Hayut had holes in it from the outset, he claimed to be the son of a genuine Israeli diamond billionaire, Lev Leviev. A simple desktop background investigation into ‘Simon Leviev’ would have found no record of him, and certainly no connection to Lev Leviev.

The victims took their story to the press, in a justified bid to raise awareness to stop anyone else falling victim to this cruel scam. Efforts by the press to capture Hayut in the act were immediately noticed by the subject and he quickly went to ground, managing to evade any subsequent attempts to photograph him. Had the victims instead gone to professional investigators, a catalogue of evidence could have been assembled through field intelligence, working alongside law enforcement to eventually bring Hayut to justice.

Whilst this is now a high-profile example, cases like this occur all too often. We deal with examples of romance fraud on an almost daily basis. Everyone likes to think that they will not fall victim to it, but it is all too common for both women and men to be conned by an individual they have recently met.

What can Conflict International do about this?

After watching the Netflix hit show, our Investigator Nat George commented: “The emergence of romance fraud is a growing and worrying trend that we are seeing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of these cases that have come across our desk has increased dramatically.”

“People are often too quick to dismiss stories such as these and blame the victims, but it is important to remember that this individual, and the other perpetrators of identical scams know exactly what to say to tug at their victim’s heart strings. It is a professional operation.”

“What we need to be focusing on is how to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. Once money has been sent, it is often too late and there is little that we can do to recoup the funds.”

If you are in any doubt about someone you have been communicating with online, whether it be in a romantic sense or on a business level, reach out to Nat George directly by email for a no obligation consultation.

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