Tinder Swindler: Victims Offer Advice To Anyone Who Thinks They Are Being Scammed
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Featured Image Credit: Netflix
Pernilla Sjoholm and Cecilie Fjellhøy, two victims of 'The Tinder Swindler' Shimon Hayut, have spoken out about being conned.
A new Netflix documentary exposed Hayut as using the popular dating app to con women out of millions of dollars by pretending to be their boyfriend.
Sjoholm and Fjellhøy, who were both targeted by the conman — who went by the name of Simon Leviev and posed as a prominent Israeli businessman — have since opened up about their experience and offered advice to other victims.
For several months in 2018, Fjellhøy was in a relationship with Hayut, GQ reports. However, the London designer was ultimately left in debt amounting to £200,000 when he left her.
Sjoholm also became entangled with the conman in 2018 while he was supposedly dating Fjellhøy. The former sales employee matched with Hayut on Tinder while in Stockholm.
The 35-year-old thinks he took a minimum of £50,000 from her —to a maximum of even £60,000 — leaving her 'bankrupt' and her life 'still a struggle'. 'It was the ultimate betrayal. My friend was out to destroy me,' she said.
Reflecting on Hayut's elaborate pretence — which consisted of him posting as a member of a diamond dynasty, which led to him claiming that his life was at risk, and subsequently asking for money — Sjoholm said, 'This guy works hard. He and his team – this is their full-time job, and they’re very good at it.'
Despite Hayut's detailed ploy not reflecting every scamming case, the crime is far from unusual.
In 2020, bank fraud in the UK cost victims a whopping £479 million, which is an all-time high, as per Financial Times.
By April 2021, the figure had risen by 40%, leading to the situation in the country being branded as nearly being a 'national security threat' by the main financing body, UK Finance.
Fjellhøy explained how the scam left her feeling suicidal, and that she resultantly had to go into psychiatric care.
Sjoholm noted, 'Most people don't even report the fraud because they are ashamed, so we let these criminals get away with it.'
Both Sjoholm and Fjellhøy subsequently want to use their experiences as victims of the 'Tinder Swindler' to raise awareness around the effects of scamming on people's mental wellbeing, but also the lack of support they felt they received from authorities.
The pair both noted how difficult it was to make police take their cases seriously, which they have claimed is a result of sexism.
Fjellhøy was also taken to court by four banks over the debt she had built up because of lending money to Hayut.
She said, 'What we have gone through is very surreal. But how we’ve been treated afterwards by the system…'
'It's even worse,' Sjoholm concluded.
Fjellhøy has since started Action: Reaction, a nonprofit organisation to help support those affected by fraud, and to raise awareness of how there should be better 'laws and legislations in place' to protect people from scammers.
'The police don’t have enough resources to deal with fraud, and it literally destroys people’s lives,' Sjoholm reflected.
Fjellhøy's last advice to anyone who has fallen victim to fraud was to not 'feel ashamed'. 'Be open and honest, and please, please, report.'
Sjoholm concluded, 'Make sure you talk with people who’ve experienced similar things. Cecilie really understands what I have been through; I don't know what I would have done without her. Talking is life-saving.'
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hayut was released only five months into his 15-month prison sentence in an Israeli jail. However, in several countries he remains wanted on charges of forgery and fraud.