When the Netflix True-Crime documentary, The Tinder Swindler was released in early February, I watched the film with a close eye, as I’m committed to helping singles date safely online.
The quest to find love and the appeal of a fairytale romance is alluring to singles, and especially those craving connection after a heartbreak.
Every year organizations including the FBI, BBB, and FTC warn singles looking for love online about the warning signs of a romance scammer. During the pandemic, the numbers increased dramatically, and the question of whether dating apps are safe was magnetized and then reinforced by the film.
While the Tinder dater “Simon Leviev,” born Shimon Hayut, could have used any dating or social app, he chose Tinder for his profile. He communicated on What’s App for most of his messages and calls to the women he was pursuing. Hayut even changed his name legally to Leviev to match the surname of an Israeli billionaire diamond king. He called himself the “prince of diamonds” to attract women into believing he came from a wealthy family.
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How Do You Spot a Romance Scam?
With all the buzz from The Tinder Swindler film, here are seven red flags to help keep you safe as you search for love on mobile dating apps and IRL.
- Excessive Bragging. On profiles, when someone brags about money or poses in front of fancy cars that might not be theirs, it’s a red flag. Talking about a lavish lifestyle with private planes and constant traveling is a reason to pause. The Tinder Swindler boasted about money, traveling the world, and always dressed in expensive designer clothing.
- They live in a different country. If the person you’re chatting with resides out of the country, it’s easier for them to catfish someone and live a double life. In the documentary, Simon was charming women from London, Sweden, and Amsterdam, none from his home country of Israel.
- Asking to Communicate Outside the Dating App. Dating safety is a priority for all of us in the industry, and we encourage you to use in-app chat features to track communication. Staying within the app helps us look into suspicious profiles and activity. Simon moved his communication with his dates instantly to What’s App.
- Jumping Into an Instant Relationship. When communicating on an app, it’s a red flag if someone says “I love you” too fast or tells you they’ve never felt this type of connection before. The pursuer will likely define the relationship immediately and ask you to become exclusive to make you feel secure about their love for you. Simon fast-tracked his relationships. His texts indicated he wanted to live with one woman and marry another simultaneously.
- Showering You With Expensive Gifts. I say beware of the love bomber who sends fancy roses and over-the-top presents to win your heart. Simon sent an enormous floral arrangement to his date. He whisked her away in a private plane to a fancy hotel on a spontaneous first date to impress her and gain her trust.
- They Claim to Be Too Busy to Get Together. Simon was a jet-setter traveling the world. Someone living a double life might be juggling multiple victims while pretending to focus on one in person. Often a scammer will make and break plans and won’t meet in person, using their demanding work schedule to blame.
- Emergency Requests for Money. The sob story begins with a crisis that could include a work problem such as difficulty getting paid by a client, a medical emergency, or the need to get a plane ticket to visit you. In Simon’s case, he claimed his life was in danger in the diamond world and asked his trusted victims to send him money with the promise to repay. He frequently got angry and irritated when his victims hesitated to come through.
Stay Hopeful, Stay Safe
While The Tinder Swindler ranks in the Top 10 on Netflix, know there are wonderful and sincere people looking for a meaningful relationship, and they are ready to meet you. Not every romantic has ulterior motives.
Still, remember to protect your heart and don’t open your wallet. Report any suspicious activity to the dating app by clicking on the ellipses (3 dots) on a profile or within your chat thread.
Fortunately, Simon’s profile is no longer on Tinder, and the world’s most popular dating app recently updated their Safety Center with tips to avoid a romance scammer and make it easy to report an abusive profile.
I say it’s vital to protect your heart and your wallet. Take the time to get to know someone, and don’t rush into an instant relationship. If you’re meant to be together, enjoy the courtship process with your head and heart in tow.
Julie Spira is America’s Top Online Dating Expert and an award-winning dating coach. She’s the author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. Follow @JulieSpira on Twitter and Instagram.
Julie Spira is America's Top Online Dating Expert. She's an award-winning dating coach who's been helping singles find love online for 25+ years. Follow @JulieSpira on IG.