Is ‘The Tinder Swindler’ A True Story?

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Netflix keeps digging deep into the true-crime realm with no signs of stopping. From the revival of Unsolved Mysteries to Joe Berlinger’s Crime Scene series to the Making A Murderer show and the upcoming Inventing Anna (from Shondaland and starring Julia Garner), it’s never been easier to binge other people’s bad deeds to your heart’s content.

The streamer’s newest such documentary, The Tinder Swindler, will appeal to both true crime aficionados and online daters alike. It’s a true-crime story, but is it, you know, a true story?

Oh yes. This is the story of a faux billionaire playboy who cruised Tinder, setting up a string of long-distance romances, leaving women (worldwide) in debt and wondering what on earth hit them. Simon Leviev worked out a series of long cons after introducing himself as a hard-at-work Israeli millionaire, i.e., the “Prince of Diamonds.” As The Times of Israel notes, Simon chose his alias while pretending to be the son of real-life multi-millionaire Lev Leviev in a scheme that went on for years. According to ABC News, Leviev’s true identity was Shimon Hayu, a con-man who had already served years of hard time before he wandered into Londoner Cecilie Fjellhoy’s life, and once he was done, she was out over $200,000.

She wasn’t the only one, not by a long shot. The process, Fiellhoy said, was both hard and fast and incremental, with him showering her with hugely romantic gestures, largely from a distance. In reality, Hayu was already living on another woman’s money, which was his method of operation. Once an undeniable pattern formed, these women banded together to work some justice upon Hayu (who operated under a number of aliases), and that’s where this 2-hour Netflix documentary comes in, while Hayu now stares down extradition to his homeland on a number of fraud charges.

It’s a cautionary tale, of course, especially when one marvels at the ease at which Hayu would work his routine, first convincing the women that his profession was one of danger. He would later send them photos and calls of distress, asking for money, claiming that his credit was temporarily inaccessible and that he needed large sums of money to move to safety. Then he’d disappear, never to be heard of again and move on to his next target.

Maybe stay off Tinder, but do catch The Tinder Swindler, which is currently streaming on Netflix.