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‘Tinder Swindler’ con artist, subject of new Netflix documentary, banned from dating app

Tinder has also issued new guidelines to protect users from would-be romance scammers

(Patrick Sison/AP)
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Netflix released a new true-crime documentary last Wednesday about a man who filmmakers claim scammed dozens of victims, mainly women, for an estimated $10 million after matching with them online. By Friday, Tinder said it had banned the “Tinder Swindler.”

Dating app users can no longer swipe right on Shimon Hayut, also known as “Simon Leviev,” the man who, as detailed by the documentary, posed as the billionaire son of a Russian-Israeli diamond tycoon and wooed multiple women by showering them with lavish goods, flying them by private jet to luxury hotels around the world and professing his love — then demanding they send him money, frequently claiming his life was in grave danger from his “enemies.”

Hayut, who called himself the “Prince of Diamonds,” asked the women to take out American Express credit cards and hounded them to increase their spending limits and loan him cash that he never repaid.

“We have conducted internal investigations and can confirm Simon Leviev is no longer active on Tinder under any of his known aliases,” Tinder said in a statement. Variety previously reported the statement.

Pernilla Sjöholm, who is featured in a Netflix documentary about the "Tinder Swindler," describes how he scammed her after meeting on the dating app. (Video: AP)

The production featured three women — Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte — in different European countries recalling their dealings with Hayut during 2018 and 2019. Tinder could not immediately be reached for comment.

One day before the documentary was released, Tinder published new guidelines for users, titled: “Romance Scams: How to Protect Yourself Online.” While Tinder’s new guide to spotting a scammer online did not directly reference the streaming giant’s film, the dating app said scammers often used such platforms to prey on “vulnerable” people “looking for love.”

The new documentary, which swiftly soared to the most-watched lists in the United States and United Kingdom, zoned in on Hayut’s real-life criminal record and long history of scamming people — mainly women looking for love.

In 2011, Hayut was wanted in Israel on charges of theft, forgery and fraud, including for defrauding family in that country while serving as their babysitter, the Times of Israel reported. He fled Israel before he could be sentenced. Also, according to Erlend Ofte Arntsen, one of the journalists who has covered Hayut and is featured in the documentary, said Hayut also scammed a family in New York for $42,000 in 2008.

Hayut settled in Finland. In 2015, authorities charged him with defrauding three women and sentenced him to two years in prison. In 2017, he was returned to Israel to face authorities for the outstanding charges there — but fled again. The Netflix documentary mostly covers his dealings with women after this point.

In July 2019, Hayut was arrested in Greece (thanks to, as the documentary shows, a little help from Ayleen Charlotte, Interpol and Israeli police). He was extradited back to Israel.

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud, and ordered to pay compensation of more than $43,000. But Hayut only served five months, the Times of Israel reported.

The documentary says that Hayut is free — though his whereabouts are unknown — but his victims from the romance scams continue to pay off the debts they incurred at his request.

Following the documentary’s release, Hayut took to his personal Instagram account, telling his 200,000 followers that he was gearing up to provide his version of events, Variety reported. However the account — which showed the fraudster posing in swanky suits, clutching champagne bottles and sitting on private jets — has since been deleted.

Tinder, in its new guidelines, urged its users to be wary when getting to know an online match, adding that in the United States alone, criminals bagged an estimated $304 million from romance scams in 2020, citing data from the Federal Trade Commission.

In its list of lengthy advice, the company said users should “trust their gut,” look out for “over-the-top displays of attention” and avoid sharing personal details such as their passport information or social security number.

“Above all else, do not send money online,” the company said in the three-page warning.

On social media, many watchers were aghast at the stories of the women, with some praising them for sharing their experiences so openly and sounding the alarm on Hayut’s actions.

“Cecilie [Fjellhoy] put her pride and privacy aside to disrupt a long-time fraudster,” read one tweet. Others called the women “incredible” and “brave.” Ayleen Charlotte, the woman who is featured pledging to “swindle the Tinder swindler,” was praised by many for her commitment to bringing Hayut down. Some branded her a “baller” and a “baddie.”

“I will forever be an Ayleen stan,” tweeted one user.

Charlotte says she loaned Hayut approximately $140,000 during the 14 months they dated. Fjellhoy has been declared bankrupt in the United Kingdom, where she is living and told Britain’s ITV that she is over $270,000 in debt. “It’s impossible to pay it down,” she said in an interview last week.

While some sympathized with those who had been scammed, others said they would have spotted the signs or acted with a lot more haste.

“The first red flag is a single billionaire on tinder,” read one tweet. “Commonsense is not common,” read another.

Read more:

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