“I have the right to choose whatever name I want, I never presented myself as the son of anyone, but people use their imaginations. Maybe their hearts were broken during the process… I never took a dime from them; these women enjoyed themselves in my company. They traveled and got to see the world on my dime,”
“Any Swipe Can Change Your Life
“How can you give trust to a man like that, who escaped from Israel twice? A man that deceived and swindled women in Europe for hundreds of thousands of euros. Where is the justice?”
The Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler is a British true crime documentary film directed by Felicity Morris and was released on Netflix on 2 February 2022. It is about how convicted fraudster Simon Leviev (sentenced in Finland and Israel), an internet dating scammer, cheated hundreds of women out of 10 million dollars. Leviev ran a basic Ponzi scheme, using new women’s money to fund his fake billionaire lifestyle. It derives its name from the Italian Charles Ponzi, who ran a system in the early 1920s that extorted almost $200 million dollars (in 2022 currency). Ponzi schemes have only become more popular over the past century.
While it is a basic human trait to feel for the underdog or, in this case, the scammed women, I find it hard to muster sympathy for several women who fell for such an obvious confidence trick. It beggars belief that these women fell in “love” with this cold-blooded con artist with a reptilian worldview. The Tinder Swindler trod a fine line when it romanticised the exploits and fabrications of this con artist. The documentary does not condemn his criminal behaviour despite the devastating personal and financial harm he caused.
The first woman we meet is Cecilie Fjellhoy, who talks about falling for a man she met on the Tinder dating app. He called himself Simon Leviev. Despite her friends warning her that this could be a scam, she boarded his private jet and was fed at a five-star hotel. It did not yet dawn on her that this lavish lifestyle was paid for by a long line of women that had been conned before her. Her scammer claimed to be the son of a billionaire diamond dealer but was a convicted conman named Shimon Hayut. Fjellhoy was fleeced to the tune of 250,000 dollars
The second woman interviewed was Pernilla Sjoholm. Like her friend Cecillie she does not exactly cover herself in glory in this documentary. She does not fall in love with Leviev but becomes his friend, and when she is invited to spend a summer travelling with him, she jumps at the chance. The only problem is that Simon’s then-girlfriend will accompany them. Her story ends the same way as Cecillie’s. However, she did not lose as much.
The story only gets really interesting when the story finally becomes public after an in-investigation by the Norwegian newspaper VG. While you must admire the bravery of the women involved to go public, they faced several rather accurate charges of being in love with money. The newspaper story went viral and showed the huge extent of his deception.
Netflix’s true-crime documentaries are usually strong on visuals and excitement and can be sensationalist but largely unsatisfying. At no stage did the Netflix documentary examine the personal psychology of a con artist like Leviev. While The Tinder Swindler is fun and good to look at, as one reviewer said, “Despite the great yarn at its centre, [the film] sometimes lapses into the self-indulgence common to so many modern documentaries, with endless shadowy reconstructions and a heart-tugging soundtrack.” It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and barely scratches the surface of what is a billion-dollar business.
Why did it take Tinder so long to ban him, given they are not slow in banning the ordinary Joe public without recourse to an appeal? The writer of this article was also banned, and maybe they got wind of my writing this article. Currently 31 years old, Simon Leviev lives as a free man in Israel and is dating Israeli model Kate Konlin. He has an Instagram account.
The Tinder Swindler unwittingly exposes the connection between middle-class aspirations and the fake identities constructed on dating platforms such as Tinder. But as Christopher McMichael states, “this technology exists against the backdrop of neoliberalism, with its Darwinian ideology of competition and wealth accumulation at all costs. In this culture, dishonourable or dishonest practices are now called “hustling” or “grinding” – the ends of more money and power are seen to justify the means.”
Leviev’s Tinder profile shows an image of material wealth, and the women attracted to this wealth were hooked before Leviev even opened his mouth. As the journalist Christopher McMichael again explains, “Historically, con artists have also been known as grifters or snake oil salesmen, referring to the selling of fraudulent products. Capitalism has long produced criminal entrepreneurs prepared to tell lies for a quick buck. In the early 19th century, Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor convinced European investors that he had exclusive control of a territory in South America called Poyais. But instead of a bustling settlement, Poyias did not exist, and many of his victims who came to live in the promised utopia died in the jungle.”
It is perhaps a little perverse that The Tinder Swindler’s portrayal of the con artist reveals the true nature of the capitalist system. The way to make millions is not through the American dream but “subterfuge, class power, and exploitation”.
To conclude, Leviev’s crimes are many and varied but are not the product of just a bad individual but are part of a broader process that has been going on for decades. Leviev’s criminality is not an aberration but shows the true face of capitalism in the 21st century. The accumulation of wealth and assets has completely detached itself from the real economy for a long time. The result is unprecedented social polarisation and the criminalization of all sectors of the capitalist economy. Levievs’s criminality is but one bizarre expression of the criminality of capitalism.