Online dating apps like Tinder have changed the way people date, as it allows singles to connect with others in the area from their phones, but it has also created a platform where fraud can thrive.
“The Tinder Swindler”, based on the VG article of the same name, tells the story of the victims of Simon Hayut, better known as his alias Simon Leviev, who lures women on Tinder assuming the identity of the fictitious son of diamond tycoon Lev Leviev. His scam is remarkably simple; he goes on dates with these women, flattering them with expensive vacations, trips to high-end restaurants, and luxurious gifts, only to feign financial hardships later in their relationship, often under the guise of frozen bank accounts and being pursued by dangerous enemies. In reality, he essentially runs a Ponzi scheme in which his only real source of income is the money other women give him; when he suddenly disappears on a “business trip”, he’s often recruiting another victim into his scheme.
The documentary is told from the perspectives of Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte. Fjellhoy is a girlfriend Simon invents a “security” reason to stay away from physically, while asking for money, whereas Sjöholm is a friend he vacations with before pulling similar tactics, and Charlotte was his long-term girlfriend who found out about his scams when the VG article broke. Charlotte subsequently helped get him caught (he was constantly on the run because of his schemes, and was eventually arrested and jailed).
Simon is painted as a manipulative serial liar who uses his charm as a weapon and is very vengeful when his victims resist funneling him cash, or start to buckle under the financial pressure of unknowingly financing his lavish lifestyle. It might be easy for viewers to judge the woman as being easily duped by his scam, but it’s worth noting that the documentary is very limited in portraying what his early interactions with them were. Simon is a monster because he prays on his victims’ hope to believe the best in people and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, as well as their dreams of finding true love.
After the documentary, Tinder rightfully banned him from the platform, and I think it’s appropriate for regular social media platforms to follow suit. Being allowed to have a platform on the internet is a privilege, one that he’s clearly abused. I also have no doubts that his legal troubles are not over, and this will not be the last we’ll see from him.
As for the women he’s scammed, I sincerely hope that they are able to recoup their losses, and move on from this. They’ve started a GoFundMe, and hopefully it reaches its goal.
The film itself is fairly standard, though I found its subject matter to be much more engaging than I thought it would be. Its best parts come when it recounts VG’s initial coverage of Leviev and the subsequent reporting that shed light on his schemes and ultimately defeated them.
It’s an important film to watch for anyone using dating apps like Tinder, as it’s a crucial reminder that not everyone using them has good intentions.
“The Tinder Swindler” gets a 6/10