Why You’re More Susceptible to a Con than You Might Think
The Tinder Swindler Explained
by Kaitlyn Ranze
If your mama (like mine) told you t.v. would rot your brain, remind her she never knew Netflix. The platform that put Blockbuster out of business and has us all glued to our couches is more than just good entertainment. It’s filled with life lessons. I’m not talking viral documentaries like the “Social Dilemma” or “The Great Hack.” I’m talking beautifully entertaining, cinematic masterpieces like “Squid Games” and “Inventing Anna.” Their latest, “The Tinder Swindler,” is not one to be missed for anyone who has money.
We use The Tinder Swindler to explain why you’re more susceptible to being swindled than you might think.
Who is “The Tinder Swindler”? Spoiler Alert.
“The Tinder Swindler” tells the story Simon Leviev, born Shimon Heyada Hayut, who served 5 months in prison after defrauding and conning women across the globe. How’d he do it? He posed as a wealthy businessman on the dating app, Tinder, and wooed women with travel, a glamorous lifestyle, and romantic gestures. He then convinced them to lend him money or give him gift cards, which he would promptly steal. In total, he is believed to have scammed his victims out of over $10 million.
That could never happen to…
First, let’s get something clear. Being conned is more common than you might think. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates that romance fraud victims lost one billion dollars in 2021.
Myth: Victims of a romantic con are dumb, old, and naïve.
While the FBI report suggests you’re more likely to be a target if you’re older, widowed, and divorced, Hayut’s victims were all in their 20’s and 30’s. In fact, studies from one bank suggests that the most common fraud victims were actually 21-30.
You don’t have to have a ton of money.
You don’t have to have a ton of money to be a target. Many fraud victims leveraged their credit to send money to the fraudsters. Also, the largest reported losses to romance scams were paid in cryptocurrency – specifically $139 million in 2021 alone.
Being human makes you more likely to fall victim.
What really makes us susceptible to being conned? It’s the same thing that drives us to connect, to help, and to hope: We’re human.
Humans are prone to natural tendencies that make them susceptible to the con. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Optimism bias is a cognitive bias that refers to the tendency for people to overestimate their likelihood of positive events happening to them and underestimate their likelihood of negative events. In other words, we are biased towards seeing the world in a positive light. This bias can lead people to make poor decisions or take unnecessary risks because they believe bad things won’t happen to them.
How does optimism bias play into susceptibility to being conned?
The Tinder Swindler is a perfect example of how optimism bias can play into someone’s susceptibility to being conned. Simon Leviev used his charm and persuasion to convince his victims that he was a wealthy, legitimate authority figure, when in reality he was just an average Joe looking to make some easy money. Because his victims were optimistic that nothing bad would happen to them, they fell for his scam hook, line, and sinker.
Humans need humans and connection
Pernilla Sjöholm, who was allegedly conned out of thousands by “The Tinder Swindler,” has said “anyone who has empathy” can be the target of a similar scam. Scammers exploit a range of emotions and tendencies including the need for connection.
“The desire to feel part of a meaningful relationship, to be included and valued by others, is at the core of most psychological theories on motivation…” explains Dr. Rutledge. We are motivated by this connection to sacrifice, provide, and when we’re being conned, send tons of money. This need for connection leads us to our next human tendency.
When we want to see something as true, like a Tinder match falling in love with us, we’ll see it as true. This is called confirmation bias, or the tendency to interpret information in ways that aligns with a person’s existing beliefs.
The Cinderella Complex
“When I saw the Tinder Swindler trailer, it reminded me of Colette Downing’s 1981 book, The Cinderella Complex. Her thesis was that women had an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others,” explained Dr. Pamela Rutledge. Leviev led with romantic and expensive gestures.
Humans are more motivated by loss than the probability of gain. What does that mean? Well, one example Kevin points in this podcast episode, his uncle avoids investing in the stock market because he’s afraid of losing his money. In this case, the fear of loss is stronger than prospect of gaining. Leviev used the same fear of loss to exploit his victims.
When Leviev’s victims would balk about his requests for money, Leviev would threaten to break up with them, or withdraw his attentions and affections. Often, he would throw temper tantrums or manipulate his victims with outrageous tales of kidnapping.
Need for reciprocity
Reciprocity is what drives us to do nice things for others, expecting that they will do the same for us in return. This innate desire is also what makes us more susceptible to being conned by someone like the Tinder Swindler.
People tend to believe that if someone does something nice for them, they must be trustworthy. And while it’s true that most people are good, there are always a few bad apples out there who will take advantage of this reciprocity. They know that we’re likely to trust them and be more willing to do things for them, like give them money, if they’ve been nice to us in the past.
So, next time you’re approached by someone who seems too good to be true, remember the need for reciprocity and be wary of their intentions. There’s a good chance that they’re just trying to take advantage of you.
Social proof or Group think
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior. In other words, if everyone else is doing it, it must be the right thing to do! This happens often in groups, where people are more likely to conform to what everyone else is doing. We see this commonly in the form of herd behavior and is often called “group think.”
Why is social proof so powerful? People are often more influenced by what others do than by what they are told to do. This is because it takes less effort to follow the crowd and because we want to be seen as being in the know or part of the group. Additionally, humans are hardwired to look for social cues to guide their behavior. We are especially influenced by the actions of people we deem as being similar to us.
How does social proof play into being defrauded or conned?
Social proof can be a powerful tool for scammers and con artists. Often, they will use tactics like mimicry or storytelling to make you feel like you have something in common with them. This creates a feeling of trust and connection, which can make you more likely to fall for their scam. Additionally, scammers will often try to create a sense of urgency or emergency to get you to act quickly before you have time to think it through. By playing on your need for social proof, they can increase your chances of being defrauded or conned.
What “The Tinder Swindler” shows us about our susceptibility to be duped
Even before “The Tinder Swindler” set Netflix records, we’ve all heard the horror stories of people being conned out of their life savings by a charming stranger they met online. And it’s not just money that people are conning others out of – it can be anything from love and affection, to sex and even power.
“The Tinder Swindler” is a recent example of catfishing. He posed as a wealthy businessman on Tinder and lured women into sending him money. He managed to convince at least two women to send him $26,000 in total. What this case shows us is that we can be easily duped into trusting someone we meet online, especially if they seem like they have a lot in common with us. So, always be careful when giving out your personal information, and never send money to someone you’ve only met online.
A quick note on catfishing
Catfishing is a type of fraud where you are tricked into revealing personal information like your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number. This can happen in a variety of ways, but one common way is for the scammer to pose as someone you know or trust. For example, they might send you an email that looks like it’s from your bank, saying there’s a problem with your account and asking you to log in to fix it. Once you’ve logged in, they can steal your information.
Another way catphishers can get your information is by creating fake websites that look just like real ones. They might even use the company’s logo and branding. So, before you enter any personal information, make sure you’re on the real website by checking the web address.
Key takeaways about the The Tinder Swindler and the Romantic Con
There are a few key signs to watch out for if you want to avoid being taken in by a romantic con artist. Perhaps the most obvious one is if the person tries to sweep you off your feet with grand gestures early on in the relationship. These can include lavish gifts, expensive dinners or trips, and promises of future happiness and security.
Another sign to watch out for is if the person seems too good to be true. They might claim to have a lot of money, be very successful, or have connections that can help them get ahead in life. They might also try to isolate you from your friends and family or make you feel like you can’t trust them.
If you think you might be involved with a romantic con artist, it’s important to get out of the relationship as quickly as possible. Don’t let yourself be pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do, and don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family what’s going on. It’s also a good idea to report the scam to the police.