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Netflix’s ‘Tinder Swindler’ will make you feel better about being single on Valentine’s Day

“Tinder Swindler" features Shimon Hayut, an Israeli conman who feigned a life of luxury and romance to repeatedly trick his Tinder matches out of insane sums of money.
“Tinder Swindler" features Shimon Hayut, an Israeli conman who feigned a life of luxury and romance to repeatedly trick his Tinder matches out of insane sums of money.

Think of the value of three years of Duke tuition. Really, think about that amount of money. Now imagine being in debt for that much. Not because of student loans — that would be too easy — but because of a Tinder match.

The idea is comical, right? But it is not hypothetical. At the beginning of February, Netflix released their newest scandal-based crime documentary, “Tinder Swindler,” which reveals how an Israeli conman feigned a life of luxury and romance to repeatedly trick his Tinder matches out of insane sums of money. Specifically, about $10 million. 

The story is told through the eyes of Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte, three women stepping forward about the aggravated fraud committed by a man they knew as Simon Leviev.  

The women were swooning for Leviev — real name Shimon Hayut — from the very beginning: between jaunts across Europe on a private jet, the most luxurious hotels and extravagant romantic dinners, they quickly fell in love with a man they thought they shared an emotional connection with. 

Leviev acted as if his “job” as CEO of a world-renowned diamond company supported his lavish lifestyle and fairytale relationships — at least until he shared that he had been being stalked by and receiving threats from people after his fortune. He convinced these women that his life depended on their loaning him hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Screen recordings of text conversations and cinematic flashbacks support the interviews that make up most of the documentary. Given the pattern of Leviev’s con and the repetitive delivery of the information, the narrative is predictable. That is, until Ayleen threw a major wrench in his scheme.

As “Tinder Swindler” dragged on, I could not help but notice its similarities with another Netflix title: “Imposters.” The lesser-known drama follows three young and once wealthy divorcés seeking revenge on the same con artist who stole their fortune after abandoning their seemingly perfect marriages. 

If you want to watch something full of constant scandal and suspense, “Tinder Swindler” is not the best option. The story is more ridiculous than unbelievable, and the ending, although shocking, is wholly unsatisfying. Alas, it is an account of true events, so I cannot be bitter that it was based on reality as opposed to jaw-dropping, fabricated drama. 

Regardless, it teaches viewers that if an online relationship seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches and you think about opening dating apps again, perhaps instead you might consider gathering your friends for a good read, such as the lengthy 2019 VG article that first exposed the con, or a good TV binge, like the first two seasons of “Imposters.”

And that one Tinder match of yours that pops into your mind — and your inbox — a little too often? Think of all the debt you could be saving yourself from before you let your guard down.

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