You may have heard of stories of con men in Bangladesh who lure women into relationships, only to demand a ransom later for not exposing sensitive photos or videos of the victim. It is difficult to imagine the pain and heartache they cause. But the new Netflix documentary 'The Tinder Swindler' can help put a perspective on things as it follows the real-life story of a similar monster.
The documentary tells the story of Shimon Hayut, a con man posing as Simon Leviev. He presented himself as the son of Russian-Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev on the popular dating app Tinder. He manipulated his victim's emotions and allegedly scammed them out of 10 million US dollars, between 2017 to 2019, as reported by The Times of Israel.
The story unfolds through the experiences of three of Simon's victims; Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, and Ayleen Charlotte. Simon initially wooed his victims with extravagant gifts, dinners and even trips abroad for just a single night in a private airplane.
He seemed like a real-life prince charming, but turned out to be a monster like no other. Milton Friedman once said "There is no such thing as a free lunch." It couldn't be any truer. Simon had a game plan on how he manipulated his victims. He asked for loans in what appeared to be an emergency situation. But he took money from one victim to spend on the next.
The three women featured in the documentary went to the police and notified journalists to put a lid on Simon's scams. VG, a leading Norwegian newspaper, first covered the story and the women suffered massive backlash on social media afterwards. Strangers labeled them gold-diggers and flooded their social media with harsh criticism. The documentary really puts into perspective what these women went through.
The Tinder Swindler also highlights the dangers of meeting strangers online. One needs to be cautious when swiping right. Online romance scams are more common than one might think. It can even happen to you as you live out your life online. A background check on Google, Instagram, and other social media platforms is not always fool-proof. Fake profiles can sometimes feel very authentic. The victims featured in the film were all smart enough to do a background check. But they fell into Simon's trap regardless, leaving them scarred mentally, emotionally and financially.
Working as crime journalists, we have found Netflix's true-crime documentaries quite unentertaining in the past. The Tinder Swindler was a breath of fresh air. The events portrayed in the film played out like a movie, and left us wanting more. Furthermore, the film's investigation was on the lines of a true journalistic expose. It was inspiring!
The Tinder Swindler is a complete package. In its almost two-hour runtime, the documentary highlights a thrilling cautionary tale, which will keep you captivated right until the very end. The film is presently trending as the sixth most popular content streaming on Netflix in Bangladesh, and it is definitely worth a watch.