You’re listening to KBKast, the cybersecurity podcast for all executives cutting through the jargon and height to understand the landscape where risk and technology meet. Now, here’s your host Karissa Breen.
Satnam. Welcome back to the show. I’m excited to have you here today because we obviously spoke a few weeks back about cryptocurrencies and the scams and I’ve been wanting to do this story for a while now. This story is slightly, I guess, outside of maybe the wheelhouse of regular cybersecurity, but I think a number of people have asked me to talk about this in a bit more fidelity, so I thought you would be the main man to be able to elaborate on this situation. So I want to talk today about the popular documentary The Tinder Swindler. So I’m keen to, from your point of view, to provide a high level overview of what Mr Simon Leviev got up to. But also, this is a spoiler alert, so please stop listening now if you haven’t watched it, it’s a great documentary. It’s on Netflix in Australia. I’m assuming it’s in the US as well, so through Netflix. So if you don’t want to hear what happens, please cut this interview off and come back and visit it later.
So, Satnam, please give an overview of, I guess, social engineering, but also just quite nefarious how he operated. So I’m keen to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Yeah, absolutely, Karissa. So thanks for having me. And, yeah, this documentary, The Tinder Swindler, was very intriguing to me as well. And I think just following along, I was sort of aghast when I was watching it, but essentially, Simon Leviev, or that’s not really his real name, you’ll find that out if you watch the documentary. But he created this persona for himself of being associated with the son of a very famous individual associated with diamonds. The Leviev family. And he photographed himself into pictures and he was hopping on to dating apps like Tinder and conning women into basically funding this lavish. Luxurious lifestyle in order to keep the con going. To make these other women that he was going out on dates with believe that he was who he said he was. And he was forging documents and he was spending thousands of dollars on clothing like Gucci, Versace just to keep the persona going. And he was eating and staying at five star hotels and it was basically each woman that he met, he would con them out of money to basically support and fund his endeavours with the next woman that he was going to con.
And it was just, like, consistent and he’d been doing this for years. He’d been a con artist for years. And he just sort of evolved over time to create this persona for himself. And it wasn’t until this documentary that we learned about it more broadly, but he actually was discovered by the women that he was conning. And they sort of collaborated together. They went to the journalists in the press and they were able to put out articles about him and they basically box them in. And I think the most clever thing about it was at the very end, one of the women that he was conning, she basically conned him back, getting him to give up all the clothing that he owned, the Gucci Versace, and she was selling it to try to make some of the money that she had given to him back. And he was eventually arrested, but he was only in jail for a very short period of time. And I think even the documentary has helped him increase his persona afterwards. And he’s been on social media and he’s talked about how it’s all a bunch of lies and that’s not the true story and he’s going to tell his own side of the story.
But it’s just a really sad tale because he was able to take advantage of so many people. So many women that he was dating on these apps and they were giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars to this guy. And it’s a really sad story.
It’s so sad, wild, pretty out there as well. I’m curious to know, though, the research that you do you understand perhaps, how does someone just get into this? Do you just wake up one day, all right, today I’m just going to be a con man. I’m a very compliant person. Like, I’ve never copped a speeding fine or anything like that. For me, this is really outside my wheelhouse, obviously being a security professional. And most people probably listening to the show are as well. But how do you get to that stage? Do you think that it’s conscious or subconscious?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I’m pretty sure that this Simon character, he knew what he was doing when he was doing it. And I think he just sort of got delusional to the point where he had to keep up this persona and he had to maintain this persona because as you probably know. When you watch the documentary. He gets to a point where even after losing everything. Getting boxed out in terms of not having money and all the women that he was trying to con was basically out of the picture. This one woman who was left over at the end, she was the only person he could trust. And he was talking about how he was staying at hostels and stuff. And I think one term he uses, he’s like, I’m the homeless king. So even at his lowest point, he still considered himself a king. He still wanted to portray himself as this persona of someone who has it all, but even at his lowest, he still uses the term king. So I don’t think he could escape this lifestyle that he created for himself and he needed to continue to feed it.
And so I’m sure there’s other cons up his sleeves. I don’t know what he’s up to right now. I haven’t really followed along after watching the documentary, but I imagine it got them a lot of attention. I think one of the things that is really important to note, and I think we’re obviously going to dive into this in here, is that this is not a common thing that happens. Like this story. The reason why it’s such a big deal and it became a sensation as far as the documentary is concerned, is because it’s so out there and it’s just like absurd. Right. You don’t hear this every day.
That’s right. From my understanding, I think that these sort of romance scams happen, but probably not to the same level. Because I guess what still gets me the most is like how he kept doing this over and over again. Like years. Like years, right. Much to your point before, do you think that he’s just so far in it now, he’s like, I was going to keep doing this or else that there’s no way out?
Yeah, it’s sort of like a snowball, right? Once the snowball starts rolling down the hill, it just keeps gaining momentum and it keeps going and going and builds up. Right. So he may have been involved in more small petty crime in the beginning when he was younger, but then once you get a taste of that lifestyle, like this lavish, luxurious lifestyle of all these designer clothing, these fancy trips, going to these wonderful destinations around the world and travelling and meeting these women, courting them, you get enveloped in it. And so I don’t think he could shake it and he had to keep that going. It’s kind of like a drug, almost.
Yeah, I get what you’re saying. So what I’m curious about as well now, of course, social media people can be quite unfair and a little harsh in the comments. I mean, there are people online saying that these women are silly and they’re stupid and I can’t believe they fell for it. I’m looking at it from a security lens. So I guess if I was in that position and someone was doing like, saying, oh, you should have a credit card in my name, I just wouldn’t do that. I get the reasoning. Because they were like, well, I guess the validity for doing that was, while he has a private jet, of course he can pay me back, which I get the reason as to that’s part of his con. Right. But what do you think from the female perspective? I mean, people even like on the street are like, well, it seems silly, but then I guess you’re not in that moment. And we’re just looking at it through one sort of keyhole. We don’t have all of the facts, so I have a lot of a level of empathy for them. But also the red flags do come up a number of occasions.
Yes, as a security person myself, but then also just perhaps a little bit of opsick as well, that goes into my thinking and my decisions as to yeah, this doesn’t sound quite right, so I’m curious to hear, from your point of view, do you think these women were off the map that they’re thinking, or do you think it was valid? What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, I think the negative feedback that they received was unwarranted. I mean, if you think about it, this guy was very good at what he did. He was a con artist and he knew how to tug at their heartstrings. He’s promising about let’s buy a place in London, giving them all this hope. And he was playing the long game too, right? I mean, he didn’t just, like, meet them and automatically ask them for this stuff. He built trust in them by doing these things, taking them places, courting them, basically going through that period of time where you’re courting someone into a relationship and trying to develop that trust. And trust is a really, you know, difficult thing to earn, but it’s easy to lose. So earning that trust took time. And it’s not like these women were, if you think about it, too. I think even in the documentary they mentioned it to some people were calling them gold diggers, but they were the ones giving him money, right? They weren’t just, like, holding, they were giving their money to them because they were in love with them and he convinced them that he was in love with them too.
So I feel a lot of empathy for these women and anybody that falls for scams, because at the end of the day, we can speak from a position of, like, oh, we have an understanding of how this works, but when you’re in love with somebody, you let your guard down. And when you let your guard down, it’s very easy to be betrayed.
Yes, I get what you’re saying. So just to press that a little bit more, do you think that perhaps the women or the vulnerable women, their judgement was clouded simply because of the lifestyle that this bloke led? So you’ve got to sort of see past things, right? Like, oh, well, he’s got a private that may be a red flag, but maybe you overlook it and you find justification elsewhere because you’re focusing on the good things that he has. And then so those red flags perhaps become not so prominent. Would you say that’s the case versus, I don’t know, some guy that isn’t of the same sort of status, so to speak.
Yeah, he’s really good. Karissa even when he was pretending that his bodyguard got beat up and that his enemies were after him and that he needed to borrow money, he’s also using an urgency factor, which I think we talked about in the past with the cryptocurrency thing. Like when you’re trying to scam someone out of money, this urgency factor, like you’re in a time crunch, you need this. And especially after you’ve developed this level of trust with these women, they’re in love with you and they’re worried about your wellbeing, and if they see a photograph of you with blood on your shirt and your bodyguard is injured and he’s on a stretcher, that’s going to cause you real panic and fear, and you’re going to be worried about that person’s safety. So his scheme was so cleverly crafted and it worked. And he was able to repeat it across all of the women that he was conning. And I’m sure looking at it in hindsight, you could see here he’s asking too much money. He’s asking for multiple tickets to this place. He’s asking for you to give him a credit card. I mean, there’s definitely red flags that do pop up, but I think in the heat of the moment, it’s really hard to see that.
Like, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see that. There’s definitely some red flags that I think after seeing the documentary, there’s going to be a lot more people who learn from that experience and say, hey, wait a minute, something seems fishy. So I give kudos to the journalists that investigated this, the filmmakers that created this documentary, because I think they’re going to help potentially save countless people from falling victim to these types of scams going forward.
Yeah, most definitely. I totally agree with you on that front. In Australia, the number one scam for years is still romance scams. Would you say, with your experience, that swindling someone is inherently easier if it involves romance versus crypto or something like that?
Well, yeah, it’s really interesting, Karissa, is that a lot of these romance scams nowadays have kind of pivoted. So when I first started looking into, like, online dating scams, it was when I was on Tinder, like, for the first time, when Tinder first came out, because I’m an early adopter of technology, so I get on a lot of these apps early on. So I was on Tinder right in the beginning, like when it first came out, 2013, 2014, and I was the first person to come across Tinderbots. I don’t know if you knew that, but I had some research when I worked at Symantec, where I was the first one to actually publicise about it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who experienced it, but back then, the type of con that was being portrayed on the app by the scammers was essentially they’re trying to get you off platform onto an adult dating website or an adult webcam website, and they’re using this affiliate offer in order to make money off of you signing up for the website. So if they’re able to convince users to sign up for these websites, they’ll get a small portion, maybe like one dollars to $5.
But if I put a credit card up and I actually become a paid member of that website and I don’t cancel before a certain time period, that credit card that I put on file will help them earn an additional fifty dollars to one hundred dollars per person that signs up. So that scam has been like the gold standard for a lot of platforms, not just dating apps. Instagram, TikTok, it’s everywhere. And that one persists on dating apps because it’s the most easiest way to do it. Right? Because if you see something on Instagram, you have a little bit of a scepticism metre clicks there. But like on a dating app, it’s a little different. But nowadays these romance scams, they’re moving into a different direction. They’re now changing into where scammers are trying to convince you about cryptocurrency investments, they’re trying to get you involved in investment scams and they’re doing it through the romance scam angle. Right. So you’re on these dating apps, they’re kind of portraying themselves with this lavish lifestyle. But I think the key difference that I want to convey to your listeners is that the scam that Simon Leviev ran is a lot harder to scale.
Whereas a lot of the romance scams that we see nowadays, they’re very easier to scale because you can create a bunch of bot accounts on Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and all these other platforms, and you can try to create these scam opportunities either through the affiliate based scam that I mentioned ago or these cryptocurrency investment scams. Those are a lot more scalable. And I think that’s what would likely affect most people on dating apps compared to this Tinder swindler type of opportunity.
Yes, I get what you’re saying. It’s kind of like doing a low level phishing attack. So if you hit like a million people, you may get 1% back. It’s quite high versus a full on whaling attack, which takes like ages to craft the plan, but if it’s successful, you’re quite well off. So would you say that he sort of thought through calculated. Okay. If I do this scheme. It’s going to take a bit longer. It’s got a little bit more effort required. But if it comes off. Which he was successful at doing. It’s going to be better official for him opposed to doing some low level. Sort of low hanging fruit. Very basic sort of romance scans like you sort of mentioned before.
Yeah. So for some folks they’re okay with kind of dealing with these lower level scams because they don’t have to worry about getting caught. Right. There’s a lot more risk involved in the scam that Simon Levine portrayed versus the scams that we see mostly on dating apps. Right. There’s less risk, but there’s also less reward. Whereas in Simon Leviev’s case, there’s much more risk but much more reward.
Yeah, that’s where it gets so interesting. Okay, there’s a few things that’s coming up in my mind if we go back on the documentary. So when Simon says to these women, hey, my enemies are after me, obviously I can’t use a credit card for security and safety reasons, would you mind opening up a credit card? I guess my mind went to if you’re dealing with a billionaire, billionaires usually have other billionaire friends or family. Don’t you think that you would start to maybe think, OK, why is he asking me? I’m clearly not a billionaire. I get the reasoning because they’re in love with him and all this other stuff, but don’t you think that a logical response? And I guess it’s not logical because it’s love. It’s not easy to think through. There’s no conditional logic here necessarily. So I’m keen to understand. Do you think that, again, their judgement was just clouded because of how they thought about him? Because I just would think, usually billionaires and billionaire friends, why doesn’t he ask them for the money rather than me? Because he clearly knows I’m not a billionaire. So I guess I was curious as to how that process went and why they perhaps didn’t think past that point.
Yeah, again, you were kind of saying a lot of things that I was going to say, like you’re reading my mind while you were kind of walking through that whole process. But yeah, I mean, it would make sense, right. But at the same time, the way that he kind of portrayed it, my enemies are after me. Look, I got stabbed here, peter got stabbed, there’s blood, they’re after me, my accounts are getting closed down. He basically prepared for all sort of contingencies to explain why he needed the money from them. And yeah, logically speaking, you could say, well, yeah, billionaire friends, he could talk to other billionaire friends, but maybe they’re thinking, what if those billionaire friends are the ones that are after him? Right? He doesn’t know who to trust. I can only trust you, baby. You’re the one that I love. You’re the one that I want to move into this house with.
I feel like you’re on your own, mate. Sorry.
It’s easy to say that though. It’s easy to say that as an outsider, but when you’re in it
I know, but I’m skeptical. Okay, so there’s a couple of things. One, I want to get into the scheme and all the things that you picked up and then cross reference it with some of the things that I picked up. But before we get into that, if you were a criminal, which or not, if you were to develop a con, would it be a romance scam that you would generate? Because in your experience, you probably could swindle people more rapidly versus crypto scam or like a dog scam or whatever it is.
I don’t think I would get involved in scams personally. That’s not something that I want to do, but not specifically.
But I’m just saying from your experience that if you were to run a simulation and it was like to do an experiment to see what got the most impact, maybe that’s a better way of phrasing it, what would you do? I’m just curious to know.
Yeah, I think what I would say from based on my research of what’s going on in the industry, we’re seeing a lot of romance scams take hold. That’s a lot of what we’re seeing as well, too. But I think cryptocurrency scams are really the ticket because as we discussed on the last podcast we did together, there’s little to no recourse. When you lose your money, you lose your money, it’s not coming back. And at that point there’s no way to recover it. Whereas if someone’s running a scam that’s using bank accounts and things like that, there’s potential for you to get your money back. There’s a potential, it’s not high, but it’s a lot better than it would be in a cryptocurrency scam. And I think cryptocurrency scams are so popular for that reason. And that’s also why even on the romance scams, these scammers are also trying to leverage cryptocurrency too, because they know that there’s more of a chance that they’ll be able to get away with it and less of it likelihood that money will be taken from them.
Got it. For the record, obviously. I was just curious to know more so around the theory and the strategy behind it to see, because you do this all the time and you research a lot of these things. Okay, so moving on, I want to talk about the scheme. What are the red flags that you identified with that came up for you watching this as a consumer but also a security researcher? And then I’m keen to talk through some of those as to why they were red flags for you.
Yeah, that’s a really good question, Karissa. I mean, like you, I’m super skeptical. So when I see someone talking about meeting at like five star hotel on a first date, I’m like, okay, yeah, billionaire. Okay, I get it. So billionaire is going to want to meet me there and then just jettisoning me off to some luxurious location right then and there. I wouldn’t go somewhere with someone I just barely met. I’m a lot more paranoid about that. That’s just not something I’m going to do because whether they’re conning me or not, they could also be a serial killer. So I definitely don’t want to end up in a ditch somewhere. Right. I think it’s a lot for folks like us because we live and breathe this space. We come at things from a different perspective. But I think when you’re being asked to basically loan out money to a billionaire, that’s a really big red flag. Like, okay, something’s not right there. Someone who claims to be a billionaire is asking you to borrow money, and it’s not a small sum of money, right? They’re asking you to buy them flight tickets. And then even when they kind of started going down the path, he’s like, here’s an invoice going to your bank of $100,000, right?
And you get that, and then you call your bank, and your bank is like, we never got it. At that point, you should be like, wait a minute, I’m being swindled. I’m being totally taken advantage of here. Right. But he was able to just keep the con going. Like, you know what? I don’t know what’s going on. They froze my account. They said I have to physically go there. Here’s a watch. You can take this watch of mine and you can go and pawn it off.
Yeah, but even that’s questionable, right? Like, really? A watch?
the fact that we’ve been getting to that point, because then that would sort of signal to me like, okay, I’m definitely not going to get the money back. And you’re just trying to recover funds wherever you can by pointing a watch. Yeah.
And the other thing, too, Karissa, is that you don’t want to believe that you’ve fallen victim to a scam. You don’t want to actually believe that you are being taken advantage of by this person that you put your faith and trust and love in. Right. So there’s a denial factor, too, to take into consideration that you are in denial. Why would he do that to me, right? He says he loves me. He says he wants to move in together. He says he wants to start a family together. You might convince yourself that, okay, I’m tripping out. I may be overthinking it. And it’s such a mind trip. I think it’s also the key thing that I took away from this is that for all the women that were scammed by this person, he played with their mind so bad. I think even in the documentary, one of them talked about considering taking their own life, which is very crazy, right? When you think about it, that’s how messed up he made them. And it’s sad. As I said, I think the one thing that I really value in this documentary is the fact that I think there’s going to be a lot more people that are going to be sceptical and not willing to fall for these types of scams, potentially.
And it’s probably saved maybe countless women from falling for these scams. And men, too. We don’t see that side of the equation, too. I’d be curious to see how much that’s going on.
Yeah, that’s a good point. His scheme was quite detailed. It was quite thorough. It’s quite well thought out. I thought, for someone in this space doing this scam at this level. So one of the things that came up for me as well is on the recon side of it, so he had it pretty mapped out. Like, he had a fake website with Lld diamons, which is a legitimate company, obviously, there’s no affiliation. And then I’m pretty sure he photoshopped himself into the photo with the billionaire that owns the diamond company, so that looks legit. So he’s research sort of like checked out with sorry, the background checked out when you were doing the research. So I think that that was good in terms of people going to look me up, right? So I get that side of it. I would say the thing that really rattled me the most was the $100,000, but then when Amex approved, it instantaneously. That’s what rattled me. Now, I say this because I’ve worked in a bank. Now, it’s not like, oh, it’s 510, $15,000 a month, right? Those are ranges of average salaries that people would have. But when you’re getting up into $100,000 a month, what got me was they didn’t do any background cheque to see, OK, show me the last three to 6 12 months that you have been paid into your account of 100 grand a month.
And so I think it was a bit of failure on their side of it. I think that it shouldn’t have just auto been like, yeah, cool, that’s been approved. So I guess that was a big failure on their behalf because it is quite a large amount and I think that if they will actually know we’re going to actually quarantine this and look into it a bit more, it’s quite a high amount. It’s not something that we see often and we need to verify that those payments are coming from the legitimate LLD Diamonds into this person’s account. And also, how long have you been working for the company? Because they also tried to say, like, oh, she works for me now to legitimise it. So I guess that’s what really triggered me the most. What are your thoughts on that?
No, absolutely. And like you said, you have a history of working in the space. You caught that pretty quickly and I mean, yeah, I agree with you 100%. That was really shady and very cleverly done, I might add. Like you said, he mapped this stuff out so well. I think he also just built that persona even on his Instagram, too, like living that luxurious lifestyle, portraying himself as being this billionaire rich guy. And I don’t like giving the guy credit because I think he’s a very slimy individual, but it’s really well done and it’s sad.
Yeah, it is sad. I get that. I think the other thing is, as well, he would get the credit card, but then he’d max the card out, like some of these women were saying, within 1220 4 hours. Don’t you think it’s like, what are you buying? Like, you just blown. 20k in a day, like, really? And then you want more? I think that would be like a significant red flag.
Yeah. And I mean, even when the journalists were doing the digging and they figured out he was buying these tickets for the other women, they were able to kind of dig a little bit deeper. Right. And I think it’s just yeah, man, I re watched it again just because I was like, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. But, yeah, it definitely triggered me watching it, too, because I was just like, wow, this is unbelievable.
So how do you sort of believe he managed to keep up so many stories at the one time? I mean, I don’t think there’s any fidelity around how many women he had at the same time, but obviously he went on for years. He would have had a few on the go because the previous woman would fund the next woman and so on. And they’re all at various levels. So what I mean by that is ultimately he was swinging one with the jet and all that and taking her out, and then it goes on, and then the next sort of level to that is the bodyguard getting attacked, and then the next thing is it’s the credit card, and then it’s all of that. So how does someone manage that? It’s not like he’s got a CRM in place where he’s managing all of his clients. So that must be quite overwhelming to handle people. Do you think his story ever sort of tripped up? Because I don’t know many people he was dealing with, but that’s a lot of information, too, because it’s fabricated as well. So it’s not like he’s dealing with all these people that he’s telling the truth with, so it’d be hard to keep that story going.
And I think one of the things, too, if you go back and watch, one of the things I noticed was that his consover time, he wasn’t always running the same scheme. So I think this Simon Leviev one was going on for some time, but I think maybe he kind of kept his roster of women he was conning to probably a minimum, maybe of like five at a time. And he was just kind of transitioning through those after time. Right. Like, he would kind of do it that way. One thing I kind of wonder is what role did Peter play in this whole thing? Was Peter kind of the person? Was that his personal CRM? Was Peter the one kind of keeping the story straight? You don’t really know. And a lot of the times, too, I think, even in the end, with I’m forgetting her name, the last girl, the one who was his girlfriend for 14 months, she even said she was watching that video clip that I believe Cecillie got. And it was like, same clothing, same video, around the same time. So he basically just prerecorded those videos while on the same trip in the same plane, and he was just basically preparing them for the women, and he was basically keeping it.
So he kind of had his story straight because he was like, hey, Cecillie. Hey. So and so. That way, maybe he was able to kind of keep it to a minimum, where he’s only having to spend his mental cycles for, like, ten minutes at a time, and then when he’s engaging in conversation, it’s easy to keep track of those because of the contact card on your phone.
Yeah, true. And I guess those videos he was recording, they were scalable, so it wasn’t like, oh, hey, Karissa. He removed names and stuff like that so he could repeatedly use the footage, which made it a lot easier for him as well, so he didn’t have to redo it each time.
I think he did it at the same time. Right. Like, he was probably just sitting there on the plane. He was like. All right. Let me record a video for all of my women and basically send it to them at the same time just to kind of let them know I’m thinking about them as I’m flying on the plane and then crafting the story. Saying. I’m going to Munich for this reason. Telling this person that. But in actuality. I’m going to Munich to meet this other person. Yeah. I mean, if you take into consideration the fact that he doesn’t have an actual job, he’s not working nine to five. He has the mental cycles and capacity to kind of keep up, because that was his gig. Right. Scamming these women was his gig.
I think one of the other things that they said, that the driver that he had did not actually know anything about it. I think his ex wife or partner or something that’s involved in the scams, the kid on the plane, do you think these people knew to someone? There was probably maybe some people knew more than others, but then I’m pretty sure one of the ladies, they even asked her, do you want to be involved in this? And she was like, no. Do you think that some of these people, like Peter and the lady on the plane, they actually did? No. Or do you think that they were sort of perhaps removed from a lot of the antics that were going on behind the scenes?
Yes. I don’t know, because that would be me making an assumption. I mean, I don’t know if the you know, if you think about it, the attack on Peter and on Simon, right? Like that whole crafted story. Peter must have known about that, right? He must have known that he was using that footage. Unless he really did get attacked somewhere. Maybe he got into a fight with somebody.
Yeah, he did. It was a bar fight.
Peter may not have known. Right. I don’t know. I think at the end, they mentioned that neither of them were charged. Right. His business associate and Peter never got charged with anything, so it’s possible they didn’t know. But what’s weird to me, though, Chris, is that I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the mother of his child, she was one of the people, wasn’t she, that actually went forward and testified?
She testified originally and then she got swindled into this bloke scam.
So she testified originally against him. But then how did she end up that’s the thing that I kind of couldn’t really figure out.
I don’t know. It’s twisted, it’s messed up. I don’t want to know why or how. It’s just weird. I think that is a big question mark that a lot of people have. Like, why would she go back and then allow other women to fall victim? Is the same thing that she had, and she’s got a kid to this guy. That’s what gets me the most.
Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe she was in on it, maybe she wasn’t. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. We don’t know what unless they come out and do their own, like, tell all book or story, we probably will never know.
Yeah, that’s a good point. I think the other thing that was a red flag for me as well is he was always travelling and it’s like, oh, we don’t actually know where he lives. Don’t you think that is a question mark? Like, where’s your actual house? I don’t have one. Like, that, to me, is a bit suspect.
Yeah, well, but I mean, he also had this persona. Like, he’s a travelling man, he’s a billionaire, he has to travel, and he’s meeting these women in places that he’s doing business in. So if he lives in a particular area, the likelihood of him bringing him back there is unlikely. He’s probably just like, hey, I’m constantly on the move, I have to go from hotel to hotel for the business. There’s plausible deniability.
What about his prosecution of five months? What do you think about that?
Yeah, I don’t know how the law works for that. I think he was convicted for 15 and they got out of file. I don’t know how it baffles me. It really does, considering how much he managed to steal. I think they set up to maybe $10 million. Right. So I don’t know how you get away with that.
So what do you think happens now? If we got, like I think there was something in the Daily Mail here in Australia. There’s another tinder Swindler in Australia going around. There’s lots of them. Right. So I’m just curious, like, is there going to be ramifications for people? Because that’s where it gets interesting, because it was, like, cross border as well. I think he got arrested in Germany and then he got sent back to Israel and then he got sentenced there. But the laws are different like, how does it work when you’re committing these crimes overseas? I mean, the laws in the US. Are different to Australia. Right? I get that. Yes, he was born in Israel and he’s an Israeli citizen and I get that. But the thing is, it’s a little bit more to it than that as well. So I was curious to know this could become a big problem if people know that they can get away with it, so to speak.
Yeah. I mean I don’t know, Karissa. I feel like the amount of work that’s required to create this whole persona and do everything, it’s not something that anybody could do. It’s not easily scalable. And I mean, there is a huge risk, right? I mean, this may have been something that he kind of got a little bit of jail time for, but I don’t see this being something that’s going to be like I don’t expect there to be hundreds of Simon Leviev’s popping up. I don’t expect that. That’s not to say that there won’t be some people that see this and want to try to get in on it, but I think now with more people being cautious and more cognizant of it, I think there’s less likelihood that people are going to be willing to fall for it as easily. That’s not to say that the general romance scams that we do come across, those are more likely to succeed versus this type of scam. I just think there’s too many variables at play. And I think now with everybody kind of knowing that this happens, there’s a lot more people that are, I guess, taking the approach that you and I take of skepticism when they’re on these dating apps.
So if you had to sort of pick I mean, the whole documentary just blew my mind and it just rattled me completely from start to finish. But if there’s one thing in the documentary that rattled you the most, what was it and why?
I think honestly, when he started threatening the women, right. The way he started threatening them once they started to push back against him, Cecilie, when she was starting to push back and he knew where she lived, knew where her mother lived, that stuff really worried me for their safety. And even in the case of the last gal who went to go see him, she said she was driving to this remote location. I was just like, I hope nothing. I mean, clearly they were okay. But in your mind, you’re thinking this is really risky. Right. I know your game is because you want to con to con man, but that’s a huge risk because you don’t know if he’s willing to go to such great lengths to keep his identity concealed and keep this lifestyle going. What lengths is he going to be willing to go to to prevent you from exposing him? Right? That’s really creepy.
So from your experience in working across multiple scams. What are some of the lessons perhaps you can share for consumers about Mr. Leviev’s sort of antics or in this romance scam game that you can share for people to take away, perhaps they can consider when they are dating online, or dating in person for that matter.
Stop using dating apps. I’m just kidding. Can’t do that, right? It’s skepticism. I know it’s a very cliche thing to say, but being really skeptical of the people that you meet with and interact with online because I think this story kind of sort of implies like the main problem we have with the luxury of having the internet, right? People can claim to be someone that they are not on the internet, whether it’s through a persona, on social media, or through a dating app. And I think that’s one of the biggest ways that scammers are able to take advantage of users is by impersonating people. We even have all these scams involving like fake Elon Musk and things like that. Impersonation is the name of the game at the end of the day. And I think being very mindful of the fact that the people out there are going to try to con you and just not be if it sounds too good to be true, it is. That’s a very cliche saying that I use across most of my stories and articles that I’ve written. And I know it’s like oh, it’s easier said than done, but really that thing has been around for so long because it still holds up even years later, even before the dawn of the internet.
This advice probably existed for in person scams that would happen with people that you would meet on the street, right? If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And to just be really skeptical. And I know it’s hard to do, especially on dating apps, because you’re wanting to let your guard down and trust someone in order to get into a relationship with somebody. But even when you have the slightest inkling that something doesn’t add up, trust your intuition because your intuition won’t fail you.
I guess that’s a great point. I totally get it. But I think for me, if I were to do a simulation and see, I would probably think if I was asking someone, I think it’s getting fidelity on the question. So for example, say what do you do for work? I work in consulting. Okay, what type of consulting? Which consulting company? Try to maybe back verify. Okay. They say they worked at X company. Look them up on LinkedIn for example, to verify that that’s the case. I would probably go down that level. Obviously I’m very skeptical. So for me I think that I like to back up the information and always double cheque that. So I think perhaps it’s people giving blase answers on things and not giving sort of detailed responses that would start to get me very sceptical on things and avoiding the question or trying to deflect or asking me a question back, that potentially would be what would get my security hat on to start investigating that more.
Yeah, but the thing is, Karissa, I can create a fake persona of myself on LinkedIn, too, and claim that I’m associated with a company or brand. There’s no verification that goes in place. I could say I work for Ll Diamonds. I could say I work for them. Or I could say I can work for a big multinational corporation. I could say I work for a big bank because no one’s auditing it, right? Yeah. I can change my LinkedIn right now to say that I work for, I don’t know, say I work for Apple, right? But who’s going to know? Unless they know someone who also works at Apple, they could reach out to them. But if I work for, like, a very obscure company and I create a website for that obscure company because I can register a domain, let’s say that domain has never been registered, or I register the dot CO than the dot COM, right? And then I create a fake website that has my picture on it, it says on this and that. It’s not that hard to create a backstory, as Simon Leviev proved in the Tinder swindler. So doing the fidelity, I think, is great.
I think it’s really good to do your homework. But the problem is that they’re also competing with you, too, because they might be able to telegraph your moves. They know you’re going to go to LinkedIn. They know you’re going to go Google them. So what can they do to make sure that what you find on Google is going to be beneficial in convincing you that they are who they say that they are?
I think it was just if you just say you mean someone in person, I just wouldn’t get on a plane with someone. My response would be, like, you could be a criminal, right? Like, I don’t know, you’re an axe murderer. I’m not going to do that. I think there are certain operational security measures that I personally would take if I was in this situation. I’m just using myself as an example here to reduce the risk. And I think that that’s something. And unfortunately, I have spoken to people that I know, or just random people that I meet, they obviously know the work that I do, that they have shared some of these stories with me and they’re like, what did I do wrong? I’m like, okay, well, if I was you, I wouldn’t do this. This or this, to me, is a red flag. So I think it’s more about getting that awareness up, questioning things. I mean, you don’t have to be so skeptical where it’s like you have to do a full on investigation. So I’m not saying that I think it’s just certain things are alarming. I also think I know this sounds a little bit eerie, fairy, and I hate to say it, but I think gut feeling as well.
Like I said, if it doesn’t feel right, probably isn’t. I think it’s those types of things that people should be cognizant of to ensure their safety as well as their financial safety.
Yes, absolutely. And I agree with you. I wouldn’t get on a plane with a stranger that I just barely met for the first time either. That just seems really suspect. And even then, if you think about it, I don’t even want to give out my number that quickly to someone that I just connected with. I’d rather just, like, connect. And then I think even these dating apps allow you to make audio calls, too, so you don’t have to give out your number now. So I would just do that. And then if I meet them in person, and then I’m like, okay, maybe I’ll give you my number after, because if I’m not willing to give you my number, the last thing I’m going to do is get on a plane with you.
I don’t know, you might be swindled by private jet and caviar and everything else that will happen on the plane. Who knows? I’m joking. All right, Sutton. Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You’re honest about some of the questions that I did ask you, because I think it’s right that people know how this looks, especially for someone like yourself who is a researcher in this space. So I really appreciate your time yet again for coming on the show, and I can’t wait to get you back for another Scan Scheming situation that arises.
Absolutely, Karissa. It was my pleasure, and I look forward to the next conversation.
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