The Con Man of the Hour: The Tinder Swindler

Hayut+amassed+millions+by+scamming+women+on+dating+apps.+%28Courtesy+of+Instagram%29

Hayut amassed millions by scamming women on dating apps. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Penelope Cespedes, Contributing Writer

In the latest Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler,” director Felicity Morris brings the dangers of online dating to light by exposing a con man who worked through the dating app Tinder. The con man swindled groups of women on the app out of millions of dollars by pretending to be their Prince Charming.

Impersonating the son of an Israeli millionaire, Simon Leviev attracted women to his Tinder profile in order to share his life as a troubled heir to a fortune of diamonds. Once he enticed vulnerable women into a relationship with him, he then convinced them he needed their financial support to rescue him from his “enemies.” After they fell for these lies, he sunk his claws into their personal funds, leaving victims drowning in thousands of dollars of debt.

The documentary opens up with one of his victims, Cecilie Fjellhøy, talking about her experience using Tinder, calling herself “a bit of a Tinder expert.” She said “You can find a bit of everything on Tinder … we are all looking for that diamond in the rough.” In matching with Leviev, she thought she had found exactly that. On Leviev’s profile were multiple photos of him on private jets, in lavish hotels and at beautiful white beaches. He asked her to meet him at the Four Seasons Hotel London. While Fjellhøy felt a little bit out of her element waiting in the lobby of the hotel, she was surprised to meet the man she had been talking to on Tinder. Physically, Leviev was exactly what Cecilie had seen on his profile, which made her feel more inclined to believe his stories of wealth. Leviev invited Fjellhøy on a private jet to Amsterdam for the night. She accepted and was flown to Amsterdam as promised. Fjellhøy was immediately caught up in Leviev’s fantasy; she had no idea that Leviev had more than a dozen women on retainer using the money he had scammed them to build this fantasy for others he was going to swindle later. 

Leviev sent Fjellhøy extravagant gifts like gorgeous bouquets and flights to dream destinations. However, after a few months, their relationship started to change. Leviev started telling Fjellhøy that he had begun receiving threats from his enemies. He told her that his security team had advised him to freeze all his assets and bank accounts as a way of avoiding a digital trail for his enemies. Then he started scamming, asking Fjellhøy for “small favors,” such as opening a credit card account under her name for him to use for his expenses. Leviev sent her pictures of his bodyguard bloodied and injured in an ambulance. As Fjellhøy worried about her new boyfriend’s health and safety, he assured her that everything would be fine but that he was still locked out of his accounts. He told her to continue sending the money while he figured things out; as a woman in love, she obliged by taking out several more loans, leaving her in thousands of dollars in debt. 

The documentary then shifts narrative to another woman. Pernilla Sjoholm first seemed less inclined to believe Leviev’s schemes. She tells the director when she first saw Leviev’s profile she thought, “Oh my God, another diamond guy.” Sjoholm matched with him, but she kept her guard up, not falling for Leviev’s charms. She told him she was not looking for anything romantic but that they could pursue a friendship. Not letting this side track his plans, he agreed to just be friends and said that he would still be willing to take Sjoholm to amazing destinations. He invited her to exclusive parties and took her on luxury yachts and private jets. She spent the summer traveling with Leviev and his “girlfriend.” After many elaborate trips, Sjoholm got closer to Leviev, considering him a good friend and a quality man. After Leviev hooked Sjoholm into his billionaire fantasy, it was time for him to start his swindle. Leviev explained that he had run into trouble during a business endeavor in South Africa and that his life was now in danger. He sent the same bodyguard pictures, bloodied and injured. He then told her his accounts were frozen, and the process continued: more credit cards in her name, and more debt for her.  

Once Fjellhøyand Sjoholm explain their experiences, VG got ahold of the story making Simon —  whose real name is Shimon Hayut  — public to the world. Since his exploits occurred across Europe, the crimes — in the eyes of the law — seemed small. Police were unmotivated to pursue the case. With the help of VG, the women were able to expose Leviev’s face across the internet and media news making his advances from now on exposed. 

“The Tinder Swindler”, while still open for investigation, is a multi-layered story that is still being investigated and is about the tribulations of finding love online. Along with worrying about not making a real connection, many people online have to figure out if who they are talking to is a con or the real deal. Towards the end of the documentary, we are shown that the Norwegian press, as well as Interpol, have started looking for Leviev. As of recently, Leviev has spent five months in jail for unrelated crimes and is now back on social media, even launching a Cameo account.

This enticing documentary leaves plenty of questions about Leveiv unanswered. As of right now, he is a free man, and there are few consequences for his actions. This con man has probably left hundreds of women in life-changing debt in order to become rich himself. The documentary ends in a less-than-tied-up conclusion and is a little unsatisfying. If one thing is true, this documentary serves as a cautionary tale to remind people to continue to be careful when talking to strangers online.