With the recent release of the Netflix true crime documentary, “The Tinder Swindler,” public attention to a unique form of financial fraud is growing, as is the number of lawsuits filed against the film’s subject, Simon Leviev.
The documentary chronicles the experiences of three innocent victims of the so-called “Tinder Swindler.”  These women each met Leviev over online dating platforms, and as their individual relationships grew, each woman faced widespread deception, collectively costing them millions of dollars.  In fact, not even Leviev’s name was genuine – although Simon Leviev is currently the perpetrator’s legal name, he was born Shimon Hayut, and only changed his name in an effort to prop up his fraudulent schemes by posing as the son of a powerful diamond tycoon. 
Leviev’s schemes operated in an established pattern, wherein each victim provided the financial means necessary to support Leviev’s lavish lifestyle, thus allowing him to attract new victims. Leviev posed as the son of the mega-rich diamond tycoon, Lev Leviev, on Tinder, setting the bait for his unsuspecting victims. Once he matched with a potential victim, Leviev’s deception began. First, Leviev flaunted his supposed wealth by inviting victims for trips on private planes, to expensive clubs, and to five star hotels across the globe. 
However, as the victim’s adjusted to Leiev’s lifestyle and built a serious relationship with him – whether romantic or platonic – Leviev’s more damaging manipulation began. Leviev convinced his victims to take out enormous loans in their own names, yet requested they furnish the money to him. He told his victims that his life was in danger due to conflicts in the diamond industry, and stated that he was unable to spend money on his existing credit cards, which bore his name, to avoid being tracked down by his dangerous “enemies”.  Leviev even shared an identical set of video footage with several of his victims, purporting to show his “bodyguard” beaten up and being transported in an ambulance.
Ultimately, Leviev’s fraudulent scheme became self-sustaining. As a new victim was targeted on Tinder, Leviev continued to receive payments and loans from his existing victim(s). Each new luxury experience was paid for by previous victims.
Unfortunately for the victims, many of whom felt they had fallen in love or otherwise created a true friendship, Leviev currently remains a free man, residing in Israel. Of some condolence, there are currently several legal complaints against him.
Most strikingly, the Leviev family itself has filed suit against Simon Leviev in Israel for making false representations, resulting in personal financial gain, by purporting to be a member of their family.  Furthermore, the family’s attorney has stated that the family plans to file additional monetary suits against any other person or entity which affiliates themselves with Simon Leviev, further capitalizing on his fraudulent use of the family’s name. 
Individual victims have also attempted to file lawsuits against Leviev for his fraudulent behavior. However, such attempts have been difficult to succeed on thus far given the transnational scope of the crimes Leviev has committed.  Often, Leviev carried out the scheme with victims residing in different European countries, while himself living abroad in Israel. 
With the luxury of hindsight, it may seem like Leviev’s victims should have known better than to trust his outrageous spending and stories. However, such a perspective ignores the emotional connection that Leviev was carefully romantically grooming the women, along with his abusive and made-up stories regarding the potential threats both he and his victims faced were he not to receive a new inflow of cash. This type of fraud is often referred to as “romance fraud” and the FBI has recently cautioned that such schemes are not uncommon, and often target women over the age of 40. 
The “Tinder Swindler” saga highlights an important truth when it comes to financial management. Trust is an incredibly important skill to foster in any relationship, whether personal or professional. However, it is particularly risky to place blind trust in someone you have spent significant amounts of time with online, yet hardly any time in the real world.
Additionally, the decision to take out loans or open a new credit card should be delicately considered, and loans likely should not be furnished to a relative stranger. Furthermore, those who do plan to offer some form of financial assistance to a friend or a partner are well advised to establish an agreement in writing, along with some sort of collateral to support the agreement. 
If you have questions regarding manipulative financial schemes such as this one, the attorneys at Savage Villoch Law are well equipped to assist. Please reach out for a consultation or more information.