“How could they be so stupid?”
I settled back into the couch and watched in horror as multiple women drained their bank accounts to help one mediocre man they met on Tinder.
“They don’t even know him. They met him online, he could be anyone.”
And that’s when I realized that I, too, had been Tinder swindled.
If you haven’t seen The Tinder Swindler on Netflix yet, put it on your Netflix watch list right now.
It’s the perfect documentary for those of us who love true crime but also have to sleep with the lights on after we hear a bump in the night.
The documentary tells the story of Simon Leviev, or Shimon Hayut, who presented himself on Tinder as a man of culture who went to parties, had a lavish life, flew on a private jet — and, oh, was the heir to LLD Diamonds.
And honestly, who wouldn’t swipe right on that profile?
Simon would match with rich women on Tinder, romance them, and develop a relationship with them.
After a few months of ‘bliss’ (good morning texts, videos of him calling each woman beautiful, and money spent on the women), the real scamming would begin.
Simon would send his current girlfriend a text saying that something bad had happened and then follow it up with pictures of his bloodied bodyguard. His enemies were after him and he needed money fast.
So the women helped him. They sent him a little at first, but then his asking amount grew. He started asking for $2,500, then $25,000, then hundreds of thousands. When they got anxious, Simon sent them a check that was way more than they had spent on him. The catch? The check wasn’t real.
Simon has done this in multiple countries and has been arrested many times. It’s estimated that he has defrauded women out of more than ten million dollars.
And yes, while I’m not going to shell out thousands of dollars to anyone, I realized that this story hit a little too close to home for me.
You don’t know who you’re meeting online. While I’m all for online dating (I encouraged my mom to start online dating and spent Christmas and Thanksgiving setting up her profile, and I have personally started relationships online), I do see the dangers.
Allow me to tell you the story of how I got swindled. Please accept that this is going to be much more boring than the Netflix special and does not involve me taking out loans or real illegal activity…oh, wait…well, maybe it’s not as boring.
I met my ex on a dating app.
We would talk every night for a week before I agreed to go out with him. I thought had vetted him, asking about his upbringing, religion, vocation, and the obligatory, “Do you have a murder weapon on you, and will you kill me?”
He seemed fine. Better than fine, actually. Born and raised Catholic, sang in a barbershop quartet, and he liked me.
I thought I knew him and it was wonderful. I had beaten the system, I’d found the diamond in the rough, the one guy on Tinder who wanted a relationship and was normal, so what could be so bad about him?
Well, fast forward a year and a half and you have my Jane Doe story. Check my bank account and you’ll see that no matter how niche singing barbershop can be, it often leaves your girlfriend with the bill. And check my PTSD and you’ll find multiple death threats (murder weapon or not). And you’ll think maybe, just maybe, the people you meet online are the people you don’t want to meet offline.
I understand that that was one story. That was one psychopath that just so happened to be on Tinder at the same time I was.
I also met my current partner on a dating app (Bumble this time). And while I knew of him before we went on a date and I went through the similar questions I had before: “You don’t have an ax in your trunk?” “You haven’t killed anyone?” and “Do you believe that men and women should have equal pay?”, I was still skeptical.
Shockingly, the online dating world only screwed me over once and I now have a very healthy and safe relationship with my partner.
I never want to scare people out of potential possibilities. And I genuinely believe that if you want to find love online, online dating is one of the best methods to meet people. It opens the pool to a much wider audience. But for the same reason, online dating also opens you up to a lot more danger.
Think about it this way: If people continued to date the way they did before online dating existed (bars, churches, friends of friends), they could still get matched up with a potentially dangerous partner. But, by extending your dating pool to online and often anyone within a 100-mile radius, your percentage for potential danger just got exponentially higher. And we’re not even talking about psychological distress, catfishing, or just getting involved with shitty individuals.
So, in light of the Tinder Swindler story (and others), how do you stay safe when you’re dating online?
Online Dating Safety Tips
Avoid the Eager Beavers
Yes, everyone wants to find love on dating apps, but most people are pretty realistic. If you just matched with a man on Tuesday and Friday night he’s talking about marriage, kids, and mortgages — run. This method is also known as ‘love bombing’ and is usually used to distract the scam-ee from red flags in the scammer.
Don’t Change Apps
There have been multiple times men have asked for my Snapchat, Instagram, or number the second we match. That’s a no from me. Dating apps have great methods to block people who could be potentially dangerous. And once you’re blocked from Tinder, it’s really hard to get back on. Keep messaging on the dating app until you meet in person and feel comfortable exchanging your number and social media.
Three Strikes, You’re Out
People cancel dates. Heck, I cancel on my partner about once every other week. It happens. But if you’re trying to meet your Romeo offline and he keeps canceling at the last minute for strange reasons, he’s probably not your true love. Life happens – I’d give them three chances, and if they back out on the third, they’re out.
Check the Clock
Everyone has a life and we don’t all have time to chat throughout the day. That being said, if you match with someone in your state and they only talk to you at 2 in the morning, there might be some issues there. Yes, there are night owls, but no one wants a 2 am chat, and it most likely is a scam. People often use VPNs to change their locations so that they can get the best pool of people to pick from on these apps. While neither of you might want to chat all day every day, make sure to check the clock when they do respond.
If you do go on a date with someone you met online, make sure to be smart about it. Share your location with your friends or have them call to check on you. Also, at least for the first few dates, I suggest meeting in public. Dinner and a movie is a classic choice. My partner and I met at a Target because I wanted to buy Christmas decorations. I also suggest driving separately to the location for the first meet-up.
Search Him Up
Google is your friend. While not everyone has social media, most do. If you want to screenshot a picture and make sure it’s not a stock/stolen image, do that too. Just know that if his pictures are too good to be true, they probably are. Googling your match will help you not only weed out potential scammers, but also catfishers. We’ve seen the show – we don’t need to be a part of it.
Avoid Getting Too Personal
Social media has made it very hard to be private today. With all the social media apps and platforms people are on today, the average person can figure a lot out about you. So keep what you share to a minimum (this also applies whether you’re online dating or not). Don’t tell your matches where you live or work right off the bat. Keep it as non-specific as possible. This just helps you avoid anyone crazy and any possible uncomfortable interactions.
One of my Tinder matches once drove two and a half hours to watch a musical I was in. While that was sweet, it was also a little concerning, considering I had only been talking to him for 24 hours. Keeping personal details to a minimum is just the best idea all around.
Have you seen The Tinder Swindler on Netflix yet? Do you have a dating horror story? Comment below!
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