Tinder Swindler: How common are dating app scams?

If you’ve been on social media in the last day or so, you’ll have noticed that the internet can’t stop talking about The Tinder Swindler.

The Netflix documentary follows a group of women as they attempt to track down Shimon Hayut, a dating app user from Israel who tricked them out of huge sums of money.

Throughout 2018 and 2019, Hayut convinced women his name was Simon Leviev and that he was a wealthy billionaire.

According to the documentary, Hayut stole an estimated total of $10 million (£7.4 million) after luring his victims with lavish dates to gain their trust.

He was later charged with fraud, theft and forgery and sentenced to 15 months in prison but was released in May 2020 after serving just five months.

In an interview with Stylist ahead of the Netflix release, a former girlfriend and victim of Hayut’s scam said it did “not once” cross her mind that he wasn’t who he claimed to be.

“He’s just magnetic. He seemed super smart and ambitious, and everyone I met was vouching for him,” Cecilie Fjellhøy said.

“Not once did it cross my mind that he wasn’t who he said he was.”

Fjellhøy, from Norway, said Hayut would make her feel “special” during the early stages of their relationship with romantic gestures.

“He’d send beautiful bouquets to my apartment and text me every morning,” she said.

“I’m a sucker for old-fashioned romance, so in some ways, I was the perfect victim. He knew how to reel me in.”

Things took a turn after Hayut claimed that he had fallen into trouble with people in the diamond industry, and convinced Fjellhøy to allow him to use credit cards in her name.

According to the latest figures from Which?, published in June 2021, romance scam reports in the UK soared during the pandemic.

The consumer group’s analysis of Action Fraud data found that reports of romance fraud increased by 40 per cent in the year to April 2021 compared with the previous year, with more than 7,500 scams reported.

Reported losses reached almost £74 million but Which? estimated that the true figure was likely much higher as many victims are too embarrassed or upset to tell the authorities.

Popular dating apps such as Bumble, Hinge and Tinder, have a range of safety features and detailed safety advice to help protect users from romance scams.

However, as shown in the case of The Tinder Swindler, Hayut was able to paint a convincing story of his false identity.

Fjellhøy said Hayut’s Instagram seemed to confirm things he had told her about his lavish lifestyle, and that he had shared videos taken from private jets.

So, when it comes to online dating, what are the tell-tale signs to look out for to make sure you aren’t being conned? Here’s what the experts have to say.


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