How 'The Tinder Swindler' Made This Woman Realize She Was Being Scammed

A woman in Aurora, Illinois, realized she had been the victim of a dating scam after watching the Netflix hit documentary The Tinder Swindler.

The woman was watching the documentary one evening after a friend recommended it, when she realized that the experience of the women in the Netflix film—scammed out of millions of dollars from a charming, elusive man they had met on a dating app—was very much like her own experience, the woman told ABC7.

"I'm going 'Oh my gosh,'" she told ABC7. "Everything, you know, matched."

The Aurora woman—who has asked to remain anonymous and goes under the name Kathy—said she had been feeling lonely after two years of pandemic when she decided to join a dating app called SilverSingles, aimed at people who are over 50 years old, she told ABC7.

Tinder Swindler Shimon Hayut
Picture taken on July 1, 2019 shows the so-called "Tinder swindler" as he is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece. A woman in Aurora realized she was victim of a dating scam after watching the Netflix documentary. TORE KRISTIANSEN/AFP via Getty Images

On the platform she met an older man with whom she fell in love, as she recalled talking to ABC7. She told the channel that he wrote her messages saying things like, "Good morning wifey, I hope you had a good night's rest" and "I love you more than you can ever imagine."

The scammer of The Tinder Swindler, an Israeli man called Shimon Hayut who falsely introduced himself as Simon Leviev, the son of Russian-Israeli "diamond king" Lev Leviev, also showered his victims with his professions of love and promises of marriage.

Love bombing—the practice of giving someone excessive attention and affection as a way to make them dependent on that love and then manipulate them—is widely considered by psychologists a significant red flag for abusive and toxic relationships.

But Kathy was completely swept off her feet by the man she met on SilverSingles. And, understandably, she wanted to meet him.

"I asked to meet him. And he said, well, I'm leaving for a job up in Toronto, and I have to go quickly," Kathy told ABC7.

But while he was in Toronto, the man told her he was having a problem with his work permit to stay in Canada. "He said I need these permits to work here and I need $5,000 for this permit. And they won't take a check or anything," she recalled talking to ABC7.

So, Kathy decided to help him. "I'm thinking, well, yeah, I want to help this man. You know, I'm falling in love with him. Why wouldn't I want to help them?" she told ABC7.

Kathy sent him $5,000 for the work permit the man claimed he needed to work in Canada. But his requests did not stop there. Kathy told ABC7 she then sent him money to pay for his health care after he got into an accident, and then more money when he apparently needed it for surgery.

Exactly like the women in the Netflix documentary, Kathy did not have that kind of money. Under his suggestion and pressure, she took out loans and even money out against her own house. He promised her he would pay her back, Kathy told ABC7, showing her screenshots of his bank account allegedly proving he had the money to refund her of what she had spent.

Tinder Swindler
Some of the women scammed by the Tinder Swindler—here Felicity Morris, Pernilla Sjoholm, Cecilie Fjellhøy and Bernie Higgins—attend a special U.K. screening of 'The Tinder Swindler', ahead of its launch on the 2nd February on Netflix, at Soho House on February 1, 2022 in London, England. The documentary helped the Aurora woman understand she had been scammed. David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix

But the money was never returned. Watching The Tinder Swindler, Kathy realized she had fallen prey to a very similar romance fraud. She told ABC7 she was "kicked out" of her bank, which closed her account thinking she was laundering money.

Since that first payment of $5,000 she had made to the man, Kathy had spent a total of over $92,000 to support a partner who, ultimately, does not exist.

It's common for scammers to use pictures of unknowing strangers taken off the internet, and even voices can be faked, as in the case of the podcast Sweet Bobby, where a woman suddenly discovered she had been catfished after 10 years of believing she had a relationship with a handsome cardiologist.

Kathy is now postponing her retirement to repay her debts, ABC7 reported.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports of romance fraud hit record highs in 2021, with median individual losses at $2,400.

Between 2017 and 2021, people have reported losing $1.3 billion in total to dating scams.

The FBI recommends the following tips to avoid being scammed while dating online:

- Research the person's photo and profile online to see if their details match elsewhere;

- Go slowly and ask lots of questions;

- Watch out for people asking immediately to take it off the dating app and use other ways of communication;

- Beware of any attempt from the person to isolate you from friends and family, requests inappropriate photos or your financial information;

- If the person always promises to meet in person but then never does, coming up with some excuse why they can't, that's a red flag you should take note of;

- Never send money to anyone you have not met in real life.