If you are like the rest of us in the United States who spend hours and hours watching movies online, you have probably seen one of Netflix’s latest movies, the Tinder Swindler. The chart-topping documentary details how three women were defrauded by convicted con man Simon Leviev (born Shimon Hayut) after meeting him on the popular dating app. The film spreads out detailed and deeply personal accounts of how Leviev used Tinder to connect with his victims, draw them in, and ultimately swindle them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This scheming tactic is called romance fraud and pew research says that it has been going on for decades. While each case of romance fraud is unique, there are factors that are common in most of these cases which can be used to identify whether you are, or will be, a victim of these scammers.
What Is Romance Fraud?
Romance fraudsters use the guise of a personal, intimate, relationship with someone in order to exploit their partner’s trust and take some sort of advantage over them. Most of the time, this exploitation involves financial matters, but it may also involve accessing private or sensitive information.
This type of fraud typically happens online, either through dating sites or apps, or social media platforms. In most of these cases, the victim and offender never actually meet in real life and all interactions happen online. In The Tinder Swindler, Leviev decides to meet these women personally, which allowed him to swindle a lot more money but also definitely contributed to his being caught by the authorities.
How Did He Do It?
Romance fraudsters like Simon Leviev use a range of skillful smooth-talking and grooming techniques, social engineering methods, and psychological abuse tactics to gain compliance from their victims.
Here are the tactics employed by Leviev to scam these women out of their hard-earned money:
- Create an attractive profile and identity that exudes power, wealth, and status.
In the documentary, Leviev successfully manipulated several women by posing as the son of a diamond magnate and enticing them by giving them a sample of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
- “Love-bomb” victims with obsessive expressions of affection, including moving towards being “a couple” and talking about a possible future together.
At the beginning of their ‘relationship’, Leviev showers his partners with tons of affection and attention. He even convinces them that he plans to move in together, as shown by accompanying one victim who is looking for an apartment.
- Manufacture an “emergency” that urgently requires financial help
The documentary shows that the reason Leviev constantly fails to show up is because there is a security threat to him and his family. He even tries to be heroic by saying that he is keeping his distance to protect them from the threat. All he asks is that they send money to help him escape the threat.
- Escalate these financial demands over time.
Leviev continuously claims that the threats to his safety never end and that he still needs financial help. When the amount exceeds the victims’ budgets, he asks them to register credit cards or take out bank loans and mortgages.
- Threaten, abuse, or coerce the victim.
This last resort tactic was used by Leviev when his victims fail to agree to his demands. Aggressive behavior, denying accusations, and threats of physical harm were all used by Simon Leviev to either force the victims to continue sending funds, or to shut them up from exposing him to the public.
Why Do Victims Fall For This Trap?
Though we use the events in the Tinder Swindler as examples, these tactics are commonly used by a lot of romance fraudsters. While it’s easy to say that you would never fall for that scam, these fraudsters are experts in identifying someone’s weakness and how best to exploit that weakness. Finding ‘true love’ and the promise of a fairy tale life is such a powerful gift to offer that many cannot refuse.
Everyone’s level of vulnerability to fraud differs from one another and is never static. Weaknesses can change on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. A scam that may not work now is likely to work on another day, or on someone else. These fraudsters understand this dynamic and often target hundreds of victims at a time in the hope of a single successful hit.
How Can I Prevent It From Happening To Me?
Simon Leviev is just one example of how a romance fraudster works. He is not the only one. People like Simon can come from both men and women and are always lurking on online dating services and social media platforms. Can we learn something from the Tinder Swindler that can help us avoid becoming the next victim?
How To Stay Away From Romance Scams:
- Think Before You Speak
Though a romance scam is a long-term fraud, these offenders still want to get to the scam part as soon as possible. Do not be too quick in giving out your personal information like credit card data or your social security number to someone you just met.
Remember that there are two people in a relationship and that it is an interaction. If you sense that you are the only one sharing information, and your partner shies away from personal details, it is a sign for you to be aware.
- Share With Your Friends And Family
Two heads are better than one. More heads are even better. Sharing details about your relationship with a friend or a family member will keep them in the loop and can advise you on what to do before taking any action. These trusted people can see things you don’t, especially if you are love-blind and you cannot see yourself falling into a trap.
- Be Aware Of The Warning Signs
As we have said earlier, romance fraudsters employ a lot of common tactics in their operations. So if you notice any of these happening in your relationship, it is safe to say that you should be ready to end things with your partner:
- The person is trying to create a gap between you and your loved ones;
- He or she is too interested in your financial information early on;
- They are restricting you from sharing details about your relationship with your friends and family;
- He or she is afraid of, or not interested in, announcing your relationship on social media;
- They ask a lot of inappropriate or sexually explicit questions, pictures, or videos;
- Do Not Easily Believe In Promises
Romance Fraudsters would like you to believe that your happiness lies with them. Remember that these people are experts in making you fall for them. Always remember that if it’s too good to be true, it most often is.
- Do Your Research
While the internet is a hunting ground for fraudsters and predators, it can also be your weapon against these people. Use the power of Google and every dating profile and other social media platform to find out everything about the person. Facebook, Tinder, Instagram, and even LinkedIn, can give you an insight into who a person is.
For even more in-depth research on a person, you can use search engines that are tweaked to specifically find information about a person. The people-finder programs, like ClickSearch, can significantly shorten your research time when compared to jumping to and from different social media apps. ClickSearch collates all the data available on a person on the internet and presents it to you in a way that you can instantly find all the information you want, and more.
Not sure if your date gave you the right name? You can even use a phone number to get the exact results as if you have searched someone by name.
How can I locate people for free?
Google and Whitepages.com are free websites where you can search for people and addresses.
What does a romance scammer want?
The scammer’s main intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust in order to take advantage of them.
Is online dating dangerous?
A lot of people have found success in online dating apps. However, you have to be on the lookout for predators and scammers
Tiffany is a lead writer who has a passion for all of the latest use of technology. Tiffany has been writing and delivering the latest app reviews and news for ClickSearch. She is an unbelievable author and continues to produce must-read content.