These women wish they'd swiped left on the Tinder Swindler

The Tinder logoon a phone screen surrounded by other social apps
Shimon Hayut used Tinder to meet his victims and sweep them off their feet before asking for extortionate sums of money | Shutterstock

You swipe right, you get matched, you’re thrown into a whirlwind romance… and you find yourself mired in monumental debt. This is the shocking situation that numerous women found themselves in thanks to Shimon Hayut, who went under many names but is now best known simply as the Tinder Swindler.

Hayut perpetrated a con so convincing that his victims didn’t just take out credit cards and loans to keep the money flowing into his hands; they fell passionately in love with him too. When the truth of his intentions became clear, the horror of their financial predicament was matched only by the shattering sense of personal betrayal.

The son of a rabbi, Israel-born Hayut is now in his early thirties but started his criminal career young. As reported by the Times of Israel, he’d been charged with theft and forgery back in 2011, but went on the run before he could be sentenced. A few years later, he served time in Finland for defrauding women. A little after that, he started using the popular dating app Tinder as a way to seduce and victimise women all across Europe.

He assumed different names and occupations. As Simon Leviev, purportedly the son of billionaire diamond magnate Lev Leviev, he depicted an eye-catching deluxe lifestyle on his dating profile. Photos showed him decked out in designer suits, lounging on yachts, and flying on private jets. Indeed, one of his victims, London resident Cecilie Fjellhøy, was whisked away on a private plane during their very first date. This was, in fact, a classic tactic by the conman.

His MO was to perpetuate a kind of romantic shock-and-awe by booking sprawling suites in luxury hotels, hiring $2,000-a-night tables at exclusive nightclubs, and presenting himself as a jet-setting businessman constantly between one lucrative deal and the next. The latter served a dual purpose. As well as making him seem like the ultimate go-getter, it allowed him to pursue multiple relationships in different countries at exactly the same time. He would also lovebomb the women he was dating, sending gushing texts and voice notes to cement their bond. With Cecilie, for example, he went as far as asking to move in together. She even went looking for luxury apartments at his behest, excitedly sending him videos from the viewings.

Once he was certain that he’d hooked a particular woman, he would suddenly shift gears, telling them that he was being targeted by his “enemies”. He sent photos and videos of his bodyguard, apparently injured and bloodied.

The exact nature of the threat wasn’t detailed – he presented it as an occupational hazard of being such a wealthy, important, well-connected wheeler-dealer. But crucially, he claimed he wasn’t able to use his own bank cards and funds because he didn’t want to be tracked.

Anxious to help him, the women would send him their own money, clearing out their savings and even opening multiple credit card accounts to meet his needs.

It wasn’t just women he was intimately involved with that he tricked. One Tinder victim, Pernilla Sjöholm, hadn’t felt a romantic spark during their first date, so he simply groomed her as a platonic friend, to the point where she too sent him money out of fear for his safety.

Forever promising to pay the women back as soon as his next business deal went through, Hayut applied relentless, ruthless pressure on the women to send and send again. This was the Ponzi scheme-style way in which he sustained his image and lifestyle. The luxury experiences he lavished on Victim A would be unknowingly financed by Victim B, whose own experiences had been financed by Victim C, and so on.

The consequences for those under his spell were catastrophic. Cecilie Fjellhøy, who racked up hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt, was driven to suicidal thoughts. Another woman who later spoke out to the media, identified only as “A”, said that he had ruined her “emotionally and financially”.

The tide only turned when Cecilie took her story to a Norwegian newspaper. The resulting article was published in early 2019 and featured photos of the conman. It inspired many other victims to contact the newspaper with their stories of this handsome Prince Charming who’d posed by turns as a secret agent, arms dealer, pilot, and the heir to billions.

One woman who saw the article was Ayleen Charlotte who lived in Amsterdam. At that point, she’d been dating the fraudster for well over a year and had already given him $140,000. She was stunned to realise that the huge amount she’d provided in good faith, out of fear for his life, was being splurged on luxury items and holidays with other victims.

Meanwhile, Hayut was now genuinely in a precarious position because the article had exposed his activities and threatened to cut off his income streams. Claiming she still loved and trusted him, Ayleen Charlotte flew out to see him in Prague and returned home with suitcases packed with clothes by Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and the like, which she promised to sell on his behalf. Instead, she simply kept the money herself, conning the conman.

She also engineered his downfall by alerting authorities to the fact that he was flying from Prague to Athens, where he was duly picked up by Interpol for using a false passport. He was then extradited to Israel, where he was wanted on outstanding charges of fraud.

Hayut was eventually sentenced to 15 months in prison, of which he only served five. He has, to date, not faced justice for scamming so many women in Europe, while his victims continue to endure the devastating financial fallout of swiping right on the Tinder Swindler.