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Calling Tinder Swindler Victims 'Dumb' Is Missing The Point, Says Cybersecurity Experts

Calling Tinder Swindler Victims 'Dumb' Is Missing The Point, Says Cybersecurity Experts

Cybersecurity experts and a relationship, PTSD and trauma psychologist explain why criticising Simon Leviev's victims is not that simple.

The true crime Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler has ignited conversations and debates across social media about Simon Leviev’s cunning scams and his victims who were swindled out of large sums of cash.

Simon Leviev is the false identity of Shimon Hayot, who used Tinder to entice countless women into giving him loans to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

Three of Simon's victims are interviewed for the documentary - Cecilie Fjellhoy, Ayleen Charlotte and Pernilla Sjöholm.

While many viewers have commended the women for being brave in coming forward and speaking openly about their relationships with Simon and the money they gave to him, others have not been as forgiving.

Some of harshest armchair critics have called the women 'dumb', 'mad stupid' and 'a bunch of gold diggers'.

Ayleen Charlotte tried to get back some of the money she lost (

Now, cybersecurity experts with knowledge of dating app scams and a relationship psychologist have said it’s wrong to call the women and others who have suffered similar crimes 'dumb' because of how persuasive, believable and sophisticated scammers like Simon are.

Danka Delic, Privacy Expert at ProPrivacy is familiar with both con artists and Ponzi schemes but said they were still shocked by Simon’s 'shallow lifestyle' and how he left women in 'financial and emotional ruin'.

Romance scams are a popular form of crime, Danka says, and the FBI ranked it the second-highest internet crime in 2020 and Action Fraud reported 8,863 cases were flagged to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau between November 2020 and October 2021, an increase of 6,968 the year before.

“The most important thing for the victims is to understand that they are not alone, that this could happen to anyone, and that none of what happened is their fault,” Danka says, noting that Simon adapted the typical romance fraud scam by meeting his targets and becoming intimate with his victims in contrast to avoiding IRL meetings. “The emotional aftermath can sometimes be worse than the scam itself.”

On audiences harsh reactions, Danka adds: “It’s easy to spot the red flags of a romance scam when it has happened, but when you’re personally involved and believe someone cares for you - then those markers become a lot harder to identify.”

Pernilla helped the police investigate Simon (

ESET Cybersecurity specialist Jake Moore said online relationship scams are becoming more sophisticated. “Some relationships only feature online and many people may be shocked by this. As with any new societal change, cybercriminals are excellent at evolving and preying on unsuspecting victims using new techniques to evade capture,” he says.

Jake reflected on the response to the women in the documentary and suspected that many viewers had viewed their experiences from a 'top level' where the situation on paper may seem 'unbelievable' but fraudsters like Simon 'are extremely convincing and excellent storytellers'.

He adds: “Some viewers may be too quick to harshly criticise these victims but they simply do not realise the pressure and influence Simon held over them.

"Luckily, this documentary will in no doubt help future possible victims in thinking twice before they fall for someone online.”

Similarly, Tom Gaffney, security consultant for F-Secure said scammers are becoming more sophisticated by being 'more focused on which victims they spend time on'. When using dating apps he said to avoid giving away sensitive information, such as your surname, age, date of birth, address, phone number or email and to use different pictures than the ones that can be found on your social media accounts to prevent scammers from reverse image searching them.

Calling Simon Leviev's victims 'dumb' is not the answer (

“Be very wary if the person you’re talking to expresses strong emotions towards you early on. Scammers are looking to move relationships on quickly so this is a definite red flag.”

Psychologist and relationship specialist Zoë Clews categorised Simon’s behaviour as love bombing, for example, when he'd tell the women he wanted to move in with them early into his relationships with them.

"When things move too fast, the excitement we feel bypasses our conscious rational and logical thinking mind and accesses the subconscious. But the subconscious can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy – which is where problems start," she says.

"The result is that everything feels very real. That can lead you to make poor decisions that ultimately crush your self-trust. We saw strong evidence of this in Cecille’s when she discovered the truth, the fantasy collapsed and she checked herself into a psychiatric ward."

Simon would make the women fall in love with him before asking for money. (

She adds: “Conmen like Simon are narcissists operating in 'one-person universes'. For him and those like him, women are there to meet his narcissistic needs – in this case, financially. The victims of narcissism tend to be good-hearted, kind and empathetic. In this case they were also blinded by love, lust, and the promise of a golden future. That can be highly intoxicating.”

On the judgement the women have faced on social media, Zoë says: “The keyboard warriors are no better than Simon.

"Good people often don't realise how bad, bad people can be. The women in the documentary are good people who trusted a bad man."

Some viewers also expressed concern after Cecilie admitted to using Tinder even after her tragic experience with Simon. “As Cecilie herself said, 'it's not Tinder’s fault'," Zoë says.

“We return to dating apps because, for most of us, finding true love is worth the emotional risk – and we always think we’ll learn from the past and make better choices next time. Having a bad experience is no reason to give up on love, but it’s important to learn from the experience before you jump back in and give yourself time to heal.

"This will allow you to get back out there with better boundaries, a clearer understanding of who you are and a stronger sense of self-worth.”

You can watch The Tinder Swindler on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: TV And Film, Sex and Relationships, Technology, Netflix