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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

The Tinder Swindler’s Next Act Is a Page Out of the Cancel Culture Grift Playbook

In the "cancel culture" economy, we shouldn't be surprised men like Simon Leviev are turning a profit after ruining women's lives.

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Screenshot: Netflix

Simon Leviev, the conman at the heart of Netflix hit The Tinder Swindler, is reportedly planning his next move, and it’s a doozy. After using a dating app to defraud a number of women—just three of whom are featured in the Netflix doc—Leviev appears to be cashing in on his notoriety and hustling to become the next big Hollywood dating guru.

Since the release of The Tinder Swindler earlier this month, Leviev has parlayed his documentary fame into a contract with a talent manager, is trying to develop a podcast on dating dos and don’ts, and even trying to create his own dating show where women will compete for his love, TMZ reports. He also reportedly has a book in the works. In stark contrast, as of Tuesday, his victims have raised just $169,000 via crowdfunding platforms to make up for the whopping estimated $10 million he stole from them.

Leviev’s ambitious career plans have yet to fully pan out, but we’re still witnessing the machine-like efficiency of the cancel culture grift economy in real time. Contrary to the myth of a prevalent “cancel culture” in which shitty people do shitty things yet are somehow victims when they face either meager consequences or none at all, we’ve seen that being “canceled” has actually proven quite profitable—certainly more profitable than being victimized. Notoriety, outrage, and social “cancelation” aren’t the end for men like Leviev; the end, as Zeba Blay reported last year, for them, is irrelevance.

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Over the course of The Tinder Swindler, Leviev uses Tinder to subject Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte to his fine-tuned swindling routine. All of the women live in Europe, and Leviev charms them by posing as the son of a billionaire in the diamond industry, flying them out on private jets, and charming them with his shockingly opulent lifestyle. Once Leviev securely hooks these women, reeling Fjellhøy and Charlotte into long-distance relationships via aggressive love bombing, he warns them of his “enemies.” Citing elaborate, violent schemes against him, he convinces his girlfriends to take out massive loans to save his life and promises to pay back these loans once he closes his next business deal. Unsurprisingly, he never does.

Leviev conned until his heart’s content until 2019, when Charlotte discovered his true identity as an Israeli conman via an exposé by Fjellhøy and varying reporters. She then turns the tables on Leviev, swindles him back, and helps the police find and arrest him in Amsterdam.

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Since then, despite the semi-hopeful note that Swindler ends on, Leviev’s victims are still in debt to this day. They’ve been widely shamed, mocked, and even called gold-diggers by documentary viewers and social media users who insist this could never happen to them—despite how 99% of domestic violence cases involve financial abuse and exploitation. The Federal Trade Commission even reported last year that losses to romance scams reached a record $304 million in 2020, up about 50% from 2019. Psychology experts have also noted how the curated imagery of social media, grand romantic gestures, and the exact sort of fear and manipulation Leviev applied to his relationships can render even the most cynical person susceptible to swindling. This is particularly the case when perpetrators cater to their victims’ unique vulnerabilities, like loneliness and romantic yearning, which is what Leviev was an expert in.

As for Leviev himself, he’s faced minimal consequences. In 2019, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay his victims roughly $43,000 in compensation—a paltry percentage of the millions he swindled; he was released after only five months due to the covid-19 pandemic. For their part, Tinder confirmed he’s been banned from the platform and published a new set of guidelines titled “Romance Scams: How to Protect Yourself Online.” Currently, Leviev is a free man in Israel—still active on social media, still on dating apps, and still presumably swindling his way into a life of luxury. Though an Instagram account of Leviev’s was shut down after reaching about 268k followers, he appears to have created another one, as well as a truly unhinged TikTok page. One recent TikTok shows Leviev at court on trial for fraud, “for all the haters to enjoy.” Another TikTok from just days after Swindler came out shows Leviev in a giant boat he claims to have bought, with a caption that includes the hashtags #tindermoney and #youpaid.

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In a cruel twist of fate to his victims, Leviev’s exposure as the Tinder swindler has the potential to be his most lucrative cash-grab of all.