The Tinder Swindler
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This riveting true-crime documentary uncovers serial fraudster Shimon Hayut, who orchestrated an elaborate Ponzi-like scheme that cheated his romantic interests out of a combined $10 million. Through detailed first-person accounts, three of his victims illustrate Hayut’s intricate scam and their efforts to expose him.
Shimon Hayut, Simon Leviev, David Sharon—all aliases of the Tinder Swindler at the center of this story. Avoid anyone with any of these names at all costs. His story is told from the perspectives of Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, and Ayleen Charlotte, three of his dozens of victims. This documentary is produced by Bernadette Higgins and directed by Felicity Morris.
As first told in the pages of VG (or Verdens Gang), Norway’s leading tabloid newspaper, the true story of the Tinder Swindler has since garnered international attention.
The documentary begins with 29-year-old Cecilie Fjellhøy, a Norwegian grad student living in London. Like many singles in search of romance, she turns to the popular dating app Tinder, where she matches with a charming business mogul who claims to be a billionaire diamond magnate’s son named Simon Leviev. Their first coffee date in January 2018 in London transforms into a spontaneous trip to Bulgaria on a private jet.
Over the course of the next three months, Fjellhøy becomes enamored by Leviev’s romantic gestures: extravagant bouquets of roses, a surprise visit to Oslo despite his hectic international business travels, even an invitation to move in together. One night, Leviev sends Fjellhøy disturbing photos and videos of himself and his bloodied personal bodyguard, claiming to be under threat from his “enemies.” He convinces Fjellhøy to apply for an American Express credit card that he can use to pay for things to prevent his enemies from tracing him.
Then we meet Pernilla Sjöholm, who didn’t connect with Leviev romantically, but spent a wild summer traveling across Europe in private jet planes and staying in five-star hotels. Until he presents Sjöholm with the same disturbing photos and videos of himself and his bodyguard and claims of being targeted. Soon, he’s asking her for money and plane tickets so he can keep the scam going.
The details get more sensational as we find out more about Leviev’s operation and his origins though the journalists investigating him. Moving at a snappy pace with unbelievable twists and turns, viewers are hooked by the rich archive of deeply personal videos, voice notes, and Whatsapp messages (seriously, these women recorded and kept everything) that help portray the depths of these relationships and the complexity of the scam. With the audience consistently on the edge of their seats, The Tinder Swindler comes to an end that may leave viewers divided.
The Tinder Swindler starts as a too-good-to-be-true love story and quickly evolves into a revenge thriller, then a cautionary tale. Though it serves as a stinging reminder to all single people to be on the lookout for red flags, it’s also a story of perseverance and remaining open to the possibility of love…despite such shockingly treacherous “bad apples.”
Anybody who’s ever been on Tinder before or is internet dating will find the many facets of this Tinder nightmare wholly engrossing.
The three victims featured in this documentary have set up a GoFundMe page where viewers can donate and share their words of support.