The Tinder Swindler has captured the attention of viewers everywhere with its terrifying portrayal of the dangers of online dating, but it’s also raised some very important questions about online safety. For many of us, a bad date usually involves stale conversation or an awkward kiss at the front door, but for these women, it involved being scammed out of a quarter of a million dollars.
Fooled by notorious conman, Shimon Hayut (who is also known by several different names), he used the dating app Tinder to meet women and scam them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Claiming to be the son of a wealthy diamond magnate, the Israel-born, convicted fraudster would establish lines of credit and loans in these women’s names, leaving them holding the bills.
How did the Tinder Swindler scam people?
Hayut would carry out a carefully performed pattern of behaviour with multiple different women. After matching with them on the app, he would take them out on an unbelievably lavish date (one of which involved a private jet) in order to woo them. His accusers claim that he would then confide in them that he was worried about a group of ‘enemies’ which were supposedly after him. He would then send a photo of his bodyguard who appeared to be bleeding from injuries to cement his story.
After this, he would urgently message each woman to say that his credit card couldn’t be used for security reasons, and convinced them to take out a new card in his name. From there, it was game on for him, and game over for his victims.
According to The Times Of Israel, Hayut is estimated to have stolen around $10 million. He would evade repayment by threatening and evading his victims, and was known to send bizarre voice messages on WhatsApp.
Things eventually came crashing down when a publication named VG published an expose where they named Hayut, quickly alerting his victims to the scam. One of his long-term girlfriends Ayleen Koeleman found the piece, and decided to turn the tables on him. She convinced him to sell his designer clothes to make some extra money, and ended up keeping the cash herself as payback. She then discovered that Hayut was flying to Greece and handed his flight details over to the authorities. He was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud soon after. He was also forced to pay over $43,000 to his victims in compensation.
Unfortunately, Hayut was released after serving only five months due to the pandemic, and it seems he might still be up to his old tricks.
Where is Shimon Hayut now?
After being released from prison, Hayut is still living freely in Israel and is now running a business mentoring program. Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are still seeking to charge him for fraud, but it’s unclear what the progress is.
Hayut still maintains his innocence, claiming that he didn’t scam anyone and that his victims handed over their money by their own free will. Speaking to ABC Nightline in 2019, he said the entire situation was nothing more than “a loan between friends that went south”.
“They used me for my life, they got expensive gifts and everything, in other words gold diggers,” he added. “When I ask help they agreed to help and they know that I have some problems. I didn’t run from no one, it’s all fake news and lies,” he said.
In the wake of the Tinder documentary, Hayut deleted his Instagram account but was rumoured to have garnered over 200,000 followers just prior. Before the big delete, Hayut said he would be back shortly to tell his side of the story, and asked everyone to keep an “open mind and heart.”
Hayut has also been banned from Tinder and Tinder’s parent company, Match Group (which owns several other dating apps). It seems he might not need one, however, as he’s currently dating Kate Konlin, an Israeli model. Speaking to Israeli magazine, Mako, Kate says that Shimon has been nothing but honest with her, and even made a comment which suggests she doesn’t believe the allegations made against him.
“He did not hide anything from me, it was important to him that I know everything about him from the beginning,” she told the publication. “Listen, the sums they said he stung were equal to the gifts he buys me on Saturday. It’s absurd, why should he take a girl for tens of thousands when he spends such a sum as a matter of routine? It does not make sense.”
Where are the victims of the Tinder Swindler?
Throughout the documentary, we hear the stories of three different victims.
The first, is Cecilie Fjellhøy, a Norwegian woman currently residing in London. She admits that she was completely smitten she met Leviev on Tinder, and was blown away by the five-star hotels and private jet experiences he took her on. After she ended up maxing out several credit cards and taking on costly personal loans to protect the man she believed she loved, his evil plan eventually came to light. Cecilie admits that after finding out the truth, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital to protect her own wellbeing. She still lives in London and has promoted the documentary on her personal Instagram, but is unfortunately still in a lot of debt. She has created a joint GoFundMe along with his other victims to recover some of this money.
The second victim is Swedish-native, Pernilla Sjöholm, who claims that she was never romantically involved with Leviev, but still suffered financially from his scams. While the pair met on Tinder, according to her they were nothing more than close friends, who travelled together on various vacations, including one to Mykonos. While there, he took her to the most expensive clubs and restaurants, refusing to let her pay for anything. What she didn’t know, was that he was using Cecilie’s money to fund these vacations. He still scammed her out of tens of thousands, and threatened her if she ever revealed his plans to the authorities, or attempted to meddle in them herself. Luckily, she connected with Cecilie, and the pair became close friends. Pernilla is also part of the GoFundMe.
The third victim is fashion executive Ayleen Koeleman, who uncovered Leviev’s scam through the VG expose. Following this, she managed to scam the scammer and ultimately had him apprehended in Greece. Ayleen isn’t on social media, so little is known about her, but she’s also listed on the GoFundMe page.