The Blatant Injustice of The Tinder Swindler

It feels like a lifetime ago, swiping left and right through a seemingly endless sea of dating profiles, my inbox full of countless opening pleasantries with only about a couple of conversations I actually actively participated and took interest in.

I’m glad those days are over. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them. It was certainly fun while it lasted, but I guess you could say I’m one of the lucky ones. As I write this, I’m waiting for my person to wake up beside me. We have a full Sunday ahead of us.

Not everyone gets lucky with online dating though. I certainly had my fair share of disappointments and misadventures before I met The One. I experienced being catfished, ghosted, breadcrumbed, you name it. It was equally cruel as it was exciting. But I guess not as cruel as being swindled.

Fresh from my underwhelming Inventing Anna viewing experience, I decided to finally watch the much talked about British true crime documentary by Felicity Morris, The Tinder Swindler. The two-hour film details the crimes of Israeli conman Simon Leviev (born Shimon Hayut), who used the dating app Tinder to lure, emotionally manipulate, and then defraud a number women across different countries.

Leviev posed as the globe-trotting son of a diamond mogul. Decked out in designer wear, he flaunted a lavish lifestyle, which he funded through what essentially was a Ponzi scheme. After weeks of wining, dining, flying, and charming women, he would pretend to be hunted down by his “enemies” and in fear for his life. Supposedly unable to use any of his credit cards for security reasons, he would ask the women to take out loans and apply for new credit cards — the money from which he would use to set up his next scam. The aftermath? Innocent women conned and left with broken hearts and ballooning debts.

In the documentary, three women speak against Leviev: Norwegian UX designer Cecilie Fjellhøy, Swedish businesswoman Pernilla Sjöholm, and Amsterdam-based high-fashion expert Ayleen Charlotte (honestly, my personal hero for conning the conman and making money off of his designer clothes; you have to watch!). Together, they lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. But despite the shame, the three decided to take their power and story back by exposing the fraudster.

As much as I enjoyed the juicy storytelling and scandalous anecdotes, The Tinder Swindler is more than just a cautionary tale for women hoping to find love online. It’s a stark reminder of the injustices women still face in this day and age of technology and social media. Fjellhøy, Sjöholm, and Charlotte dared to speak out and were victim-blamed for it. They were labeled gold diggers by the public. Meanwhile, the same public seems to have forgotten holding Leviev accountable for his crimes.

At present, Leviev reportedly enjoys his freedom and celebrity status in Israel even after being convicted of fraud, theft, and forgery. I can’t help but condemn the blatant injustice as his victims are left still paying off their debts. Sure, Leviev has been banned by Tinder from the platform, but for him, that’s surely a small price to pay in exchange for freedom. Last I read, he’s trying to pursue a career in Hollywood, and honestly, I won’t be surprised if that works out. There seems to be a trend of glorifying cons these days.

I hope the story doesn’t end here, not for the entertainment and curiosity, but for the need to right the wrongs. We can’t say we have come a long way as a society when we continue to blame victims and let criminals walk away scot-free. In the next installment, we, especially the victims, deserve to see someone paying for their crimes. Until then, I think I’ll be taking a break from these frustrating con cases.

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