Last night I watched the Tinder Swindler on Netflix. It is the story of how Simon Leviev, seduced and conned women he met on Tinder to fund his fake billionaire life style.
This story is riveting, there lessons here for those currently scouring the internet for love. While this story is extreme, the techniques employed to swindle women are very similar to what I, and other women have experienced when swiping right. Unfortunately it is not uncommon, its more a matter of degree of the con. Not all con-men are looking for the same things, sometimes its sex, others just attention, but the outcome is frequently the same. A broken heart.
As woman, are taught early to be aware of our physical safety when dating, but we also need to be very aware of our emotional safety. This documentary is a brief education some of the ways predators manipulate our emotions in order to get what they want.
From an outside perspective, you think it could never happen to you, but It's easy to fall for when you are caught up in early stages of dating. Especially fresh out of a toxic situation. Starving for affection, aching for a little tenderness. The heady intoxication of love and affection produces an effect often compared to heroin, and can cause you to ignore some otherwise troubling signs. You willfully blind yourself to your dealer and so you can keep getting those hits.
There were several moments where I gasp in recognition of the tactics. I think I have seen this before. There is another podcast that caused me to feel the same sense of Deja vu called Do you know Mordechai?. Another fantastic production. Its shocking and disturbing how normal and charming these predators initially appear. Given readers of this blog are likely highly vulnerable recent escapees of toxic situations. Awareness of these tactics are critically important.
Dating apps have become a hunting ground for romantic predators. It is easy for a emotional predators to transform into your perception of the ideal mate in the anonymity of the internet, manipulating and taking advantage of otherwise competent smart women. There appears to be a set pattern these people follow, through what they are seeking to gain varies. They might be looking for attention, easy sex, or resources like money or shelter.
A side note, a while ago I heard a story of a homeless man in New York that used dating as a way of finding a place to sleep for the night. Worth watching that link and again, something we all can learn from.
In Tinder Swindler, the first sign something is off is the over the top love bombing. In this case the girls are flown by private jet to another country on the first date. It is intense and naturally intoxicating. The first date was followed up by cute little good morning texts, and massive bouquets of roses. You may not be getting flights and roses, but lovebombing can be identified when ever there is over-the-top attention early in a relationship. Declaring love within a few days, sweeping you up in a storm of affection. Quickly suggesting moving in together.
Todays technology makes it easy to send the same message out to multiple recipients with minimal effort. Simon takes advantage of this, convincing the women they were as they were receiving constant communications from him. The women did not realize these messages were sent out "en masse". This a habit, seems very common with emotional predators. Mass mailings can extend their reach and increase the numbers of their victims. Enabling them to have several women at different points of the scam cycle ensuring a constant flow of adoration or funds. (whichever is the main goal)
One of the women describes the allure of Simon listening intently and asking lots of questions. This a known component of love bombing and has two purposes. It is gathering information that will be later used to manipulate you. And second, it's a form of premature intimacy, intended to make you feel a really special deep connection before it has truly has time to develop. In addition, as the emotional predator questions their potential victim, they will be gathering information and also be assessing the targets value. The ask the following questions of themselves;
How gullible is the target?
Do they have access to the resources desired?
Are they worth pursuing?
Had the targets showed reservations about flying around the world, insisting on taking things slowly, or appeared to already be deeply in debt unable to access funds, Simon likely would have moved on to someone more suitable.
As the con continues, manipulators will increase their emotional leverage by making a show of vulnerability. You feel special because they have opened up so quickly, it is a way of quickly building a connection.
In Tinder Swindler, Simon tells a story of the marks on his back, being beaten while unjustly imprisoned eliciting Cecile (the victim) to feel protective and nurturing. Other examples we might see in dating of this phenomenon are someone sharing he is heart broken not being able to see his child, or claiming he is the victim of a vindictive ex, making reference to a nicotine stained childhood home to elicit compassion. Its unfortunate because a man showing his vulnerability should be applauded. But is important to be aware it can also be used to manipulate your emotions.
The documentary explains how Simon also very quickly beings future-faking the women. Having them search for luxury apartments so they could move in together, talking about babies and being a family. Future faking can also present as talking about trips you will take together, wanting to get married. The goal is to put stars in your eyes, and as with the other tactics, it facilitates building a bond so you are blinded to any little signals that may alert you that he isn't who he may seem. Since the illusion was that the the women working toward a joint future, they were more willing to do what ever it was he asked of them. Taking loans, submitting false documents to the credit card company, handing over their savings. After all, this was their future partner, this man was going to be the father of their babies! Simon would leverage this bond to get every last cent he possibly could out of these women.
A key to effectively manipulate someone is to destabilize them so they are not thinking clearly (often referred to as "being in a fog" It cause people to so things that normally would be out of character). Simon does this by sending an alarming message in the middle of the night claiming to have been attacked sending disturbing pictures of Peters wounds and his own blood stained shirt, then says, "we are safe now, go back to sleep". This is a very calculated move, rousing her to danger in the middle of her sleep really stirs up the endorphins. The goal is to raise her level of arousal and alarm increasing her a strong desire to do what ever she could do to protect him. Which according to Simon requires large amounts of cash and access to her credit cards.
To keep control of his victims Simon gaslights them. In the first instance he told Cecile he deleted Tinder and was no longer on the app. Assuring her that she was his one and only. Clearly his account was still active. she could see it and that he updated his pictures. However, he managed to convince her otherwise. When victim Pernilla confronts Simon asking for the truth, telling him the police have confirmed his identity. Simon counteracts with "no one has confirmed anything" He insisted he paid for all the plane tickets and for all the meals, when Pernilla confronts him again saying she saw the name on the card statement, we see he shifts his story saying he reimbursed them cash. Simon is trying to convince Pernilla she doesn't know what she knows. A classic gaslight.
Of course, anything that comes up that may be evidence of the true nature of this person, is portrayed as the work of "an enemy" or the every present "crazy ex" (I have definitely been put into the crazy category, primarily because of this blog post. Robert Boshaw (carolynnesworld.blogspot.com)) You will hear tales of parental alienation, my ex stole all my money, etc. (please feel free to add in the comment section). When Simon is challenged, we see him explode in anger, in an effort to dominate the women in submission.
We quickly see how he uses aggressive attacks to turn the focus back onto the women. When confronting or questioning the emotional predator, Your questions will be turned back upon you, "I can't believe you don't trust me", I am troubled that you always think I am up to no good" . The problem quickly becomes you, and your lack of trust. It puts you on the defensive and trains you not to ask questions.
There is usually a fear of loss attached to this type of manipulation. You innately sense that if you ask to many questions or dig to much, you will lose this relationship. In a true relationship built of trust, it will build slowly and your partner will give you the space and reassurance you need to get a true sense of safety. If asking questions about the things you see are a threat to your relationship, you might be dealing with someone with less than stellar intentions.
Simon also uses selective honesty to gain the women's trust. Selective honesty is described best in Law 12 in the book Laws of Power by Robert Green.
One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honestly and generosity will bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people.
By appearing like an open book, geo-tagging his location and keeping in constant contact. It left the women feeling they had no need to wonder. Of course he was being selectively honest, telling the women where he was, leaving out details of his female companions. Simon also made a big show of being honest and open about the potential security threats, pretending he wanted to give Cecile a choice prior to her getting to deeply involved. This gives a victim the sense of buy-in. Effectively increasing her commitment to him to make it easier get her to submit to increasing demands and requests in his scam later.
Finally, as with most predators, once Simon has got all he can out of his victim he discards her with an about face from charming lover to an ice-cold demeanor. Leaving her crushed.
He follows the up with threats on unimaginable consequence if they expose him. Exposure will compromise the ability of the emotional predator to acquire new targets so they will stop at nothing to subdue and frighten their victims into silence so that they can continue onto future victims unimpeded by history.
In the end, the women are left crushed, having truly felt love for this man. They thought the connection way real. They were really invested in the relationship and thought they had found love. They were swindled not only financially but emotionally.
I loved watching "The Tinder Swindler" I think this is an excellent documentary that should be required watching for all women new to the dating scene. Apparently there will be more to come, a podcast called "The making of the Tinder Swindler" I can't wait to tune in.