“Tinder Swindler” shows the importance of trusting your gut
Notoriously dubbed the “Tinder Swindler,” 31 year-old Shimon Hayut conned around $10 million from several women. The new Netflix documentary details his relationships with three of them; Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte, whom he scammed out of £185K, £103K and £25K respectively.
All three women met Hayut on Tinder, where he posed as the son of a diamond billionaire. He wooed them with private jet flights and meals at upscale restaurants. While he maintained a friendship with Sjöholm, he dated Fjellhøy and Charlotte, to whom he separately fed promises of marriage, children and moving in together.
After establishing these relationships, Hayut pretended to be in danger due to his stature in the diamond industry. Since he travelled constantly, he was able to fake security attacks through photos and videos, alongside a man named Peter who posed as his bodyguard.
He alleged to the women that in order to protect his safety, he needed to use their credit cards instead of his own. Once acquired, he engaged in reckless spending and false repayments.
Hayut first requested this from Fjellhøy, whom he had been dating for around a month. Soon after, he asked her for an additional $25K, which she obtained via loans. Eventually, Fjellhøy was submitting forged documents to banks at Hayut’s demand to raise her credit limit.
Her story unsettled me the most because I saw so much of myself in it. While I thankfully don’t know what it’s like to be scammed, I do understand the habit of ignoring red flags that any self-respecting person would’ve noticed.
I’m in no way blaming Fjellhøy for the cruelty that Hayut put her through. If anything, I admire her ability to overcome it and believe the least we can do is learn from her struggle. In an ideal world, there aren’t scammers or dangers of any kind- but the reality is these perils aren’t disappearing anytime soon and we need to protect ourselves.
Although we can’t eliminate the risk, we can reduce it. People like Hayut are proven to prey on individuals with certain traits, such as naivety and anxious attachment. This is not to impose traits on Fjellhøy, but rather observe some of her actions.
Notably, flying to Bulgaria with a man from Tinder immediately after matching is incredibly unsafe, as is giving $25K to a month-long boyfriend who claims to have a billionaire family. I uncomfortably saw myself in these behaviours, as someone who’s overly trusting of others.
More troubling was Fjellhøy’s codependency on Hayut, to the point where she could no longer afford food but still sent him money. I’ve never given up money, but I have traded other things- my wellbeing, for one- to keep unhealthy relationships.
In the documentary, Fjellhøy shared her idealization of fairy tales and belief that “Life is about love.” I resonated with her hopeless romantic tendencies, having watched too many rom-coms myself.
Intense longing for romance can cause us to sacrifice our own needs to prevent a person who does more harm than good from leaving. It can make having a partner who mistreats us seem better than being alone. It doesn’t help that the media has historically portrayed marriage as the priority, especially for women.
Fixing naivety and anxious attachment takes immense effort since it means entirely rewiring the brain. As I’ve discovered, though, a life controlled by others is not a life I wish upon myself- or anyone for that matter. ‘Tinder Swindler’ shows the disastrous impact it can have when taken to extremes.
My intention is not to shame Fjellhøy for being scammed- it could just as easily have happened to me. It can even happen to someone who takes all preventative measures.
The world is far from perfect- that’s old news. We need to try and live in it without getting hurt by the imperfect parts.