Swipe right for a swindler

Your worst online dating stories won’t compare with those told by victims of The Tinder Swindler, the Netflix doccie everyone is talking about. It centres on an Israeli-born man, going under the name Simon Leviev, who used the popular dating app to con love-seeking women. He managed to steal around $10 million from his victims over the years. In the doccie, three of his victims opened up about how he would take women out on expensive and unforgettable dates, like on a private jet and trips around the world, and trick them into believing that his “enemies” were out to get him. He would then tell ALL his girlfriends (man, we hate players) that he could no longer use his credit card and would ask them to open an account for him under her name. He then took the money and ran. He moved around using several aliases and preying on various women until one cottoned onto what was happening and alerted authorities. He was arrested in 2019 and soon sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in Israel but was out again after five months. He still reportedly lives a luxurious life –  but at least he’s off Tinder, we guess? 

But this kind of love-draped scamming is not new. Last year eight Nigerian men were arrested in a joint operation between the FBI in the US, the Hawks in SA and others for scamming women out of an estimated R100 million since 2011.

The syndicate allegedly targeted widows and divorcees online; the women believed that they had found genuine relationships.

A Hawks spokesperson said: “Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob stories about why they needed money – taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, and so on – and then syphoned money from victims’ accounts to the amount of R100m.” 

Which all goes to say… stay safe on those online dating streets, friends! You can find some tips on how to avoid being conned here. (WhatsApp readers, check the PDF for the link). 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 17 February 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.