The true story behind the new documentary.
What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on? Did it involve boring conversation and bad breath? Or did it involve you getting scammed out of a quarter of a million dollars? For the women of The Tinder Swindler, the bar for “bad date” may be a little bit higher. The new Netflix documentary tells the story of a notorious conman who allegedly used the Tinder dating app to live a life of luxury while defrauding women across Europe.
So who is the Tinder Swindler? The so-called Tinder Swindler is Shimon Hayut, a convicted fraudster born in Israel. Hayut used dating apps to meet multiple women, then established lines of credit and loans in their names, ultimately leaving them holding the bills.
If he was already convicted of fraud, how did he manage to get away with it again? Like a demonic Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, Hayut appeared happy to jump from one identity to another in order to keep his scheme running. He was convicted of fraud in Finland under his birth name but carried out his Tinder con under the name Simon Leviev, claiming to be the son of wealthy diamond magnate Lev Leviev. Once his name was revealed in a VG expose, he supposedly took the name David Sharon to evade the authorities.
What kind of scam was it? Hayut apparently followed a pattern: He would match with a woman on Tinder, take her on a costly and impressive first date (in the case of Cecilie Schrøder Fjellhøy, a trip on a private jet), and slowly build their relationship while flying around the world and secretly dating other women. His accusers claim that, at a certain point, Hayut would confide in them that he was worried a nebulous group of his “enemies” was just around the corner. Eventually, he would send a photo of his bleeding bodyguard, allegedly injured by these enemies, to incite further concern. Once that groundwork had been laid, he would urgently message each “girlfriend” to say that his credit card could not be used for security reasons and ask her to open a new one under her name for him to use. From there, he was off to the races.
How much money did he steal? An estimated $10 million, according to The Times of Israel. Hayut would evade repayment by cajoling, threatening and otherwise stalling his victims: He made a habit of sending increasingly unhinged WhatsApp voice messages, even sending one to the filmmakers when he learned about The Tinder Swindler’s existence.
How did he get caught? Eventually, one of Hayut’s long-term girlfriends, Ayleen Koeleman, saw the VG piece and turned the tables on him. After the story went viral, Hayut had to take a break from jet-setting and lay low. He turned to Koeleman, the only woman who seemed to trust him, for help — but she was way ahead of him. Koeleman eventually convinced him that she could sell his designer-brand clothes to make some cash and simply kept the money, swindling the Tinder Swindler herself. After some quick detective work, she deduced that Hayut was flying to Greece and gave his flight information to the authorities. He was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in Israel soon after.
Now that he’s in jail, is Tinder safe?
Hayut was released from prison after only five months. At the end of the documentary, we see Hayut continuing the same lavish lifestyle he led before prison, along with a new girlfriend — although that’s never seemed to stop him from swiping right before.