The world has become smaller and more connected thanks to the Internet and social media, which allows us to engage with friends and family instantly. Pen pals may seem antiquated, as obsolete as the art of letter writing with most people able to fire off a voice note in a few seconds instead of tinkering away with reasonable penmanship to wax lyrical about Uncle George and Percy the dog. This must be the age of instant gratification, where the very notion of anticipation tends to get in the way of hedonistic endeavor. Being so self-reliant and busy with everything and nothing, the world can also be a lonely and alienating place. This has given rise to a myriad of dating apps and matchmaking services – the digital equivalent of speed dating. We’ve become so used to shopping online that it seems only natural that you’d be able to customise your search to find the partner who checks all the right boxes.
Tinder has created a platform to handpick your soulmate with a swipe of a hand. You may feel a bit like a god being able to decide who meets the grade and who falls short. Unlike movies, there’s no cute meet where you bump heads, trip into their arms or sidestep a lawsuit by becoming your prospective lover’s carer. It takes too much time to play the field, do conventional dating and go through a string of less-than-perfect relationships to find the one. Even though people seem to be getting married later in life, it’s much easier to input your details and let the computer decide who you’ve got the best chance of achieving lifelong happiness with.
Taking our relationships into the digital ether, there’s a greater chance for illusion and catfishing. Avatars, hiding behind computer screens… online dating and chat rooms have become a whole new game in this age of Facebook where it’s totally okay to put your image and personal details out there. These are the perfect conditions for the events captured in The Tinder Swindler as directed by Felicity Morris. This crime documentary is about a con man who posed as a diamond mogul’s son in order to win over the trust and affections of his targets. This is what happened to several women who decided to take a chance on the dashing and wealthy, “Simon Leviev”, a con artist who crafted a lavish lifestyle and whole package deal as a honey trap.
Watching the shocking documentary, many would wonder how these women could fall for Leviev’s many deceptions and illusions. Yet, the fugitive con artist made a life for himself by traveling under a false identity and conning people into giving them access to credit cards and loans in order to propel his faux lifestyle. Assembling an Instagram account of high life antics, creating a paper trail to reinforce the fake identity and spending enough to back up the illusion of limitless wealth, the confidence trickster was able to sell people on being a high flyer. Jet-setting to stay ahead of authorities, leveraging each target’s maximum spend limits on the back of their trust and love… The Tinder Swindler twists the truth as if he was entitled, the devil incarnate.
Based on an investigative article that went viral, The Tinder Swindler, chronicles the misadventures of several women who were conned out of hundreds of thousands. The slithery suspect at the core of this story wasn’t available for interview but his social media dynasty and interactions live on, revived and referenced for the purposes of this crime documentary. Taken from the perspective of a confessional, we get the highs and lows of this dangerous dating game as the buzz of connecting with a vulnerable yet handsome and superrich suitor implodes. It takes a brave person to openly admit they were gullible and fooled into financial ruin but whether you think they were initially motivated by greed or not, the sincerity of their testimonies compels this tale of love, betrayal and revenge.
“King of the Catfish.”
The tabloid scandal, shock and entertainment value of The Tinder Swindler keeps this pulpy real-life nightmare upbeat and laden with the intrigue of a crime thriller. Simon Leviev’s deceptions are long game ploys, winning the trust of Tinder matches only to wine and dine them like a prince before fleecing them for all they’re worth. International locales, fancy hotels, expensive wardrobes, watches, cars and jets… The Tinder Swindler is an unbelievable story about relationship fraud. The equivalent of dating Carmen Sandiego, this slick documentary uses WhatsApp messages, images, recordings and interview footage to craft a driving and suspenseful film that reinforces the idea that love is a battlefield.
If you were to play devil’s advocate with forked tongue in cheek, you could argue that technically the so-called Tinder swindler is an influencer. An indictment on our modern age of image saturation, “content” and social media fireworks, you could say that he’s just opted to specialise in sponsored posts from niche brands who have bought into his corporate identity, creative content, CRM and want to align with his lifestyle marketing in the hopes of a long term partnership.
The Tinder Swindler is a little bit repetitive when it comes to the social media messaging and jet-setting. Yet, it’s the conviction of its interviewees that powers it home, allowing them to build the story, reliving the disastrous relationship all over again in the hope of warning others and finding some kind of social justice. The Tinder Swindler is an incredible story of deception but what makes it tragic is how there are still mixed feelings over the swindler despite his devilish actions. While there’s some respite and just desserts, it hardly seems adequate in view of his trail of destruction, complicated by the willingness of the targets to assist him. Spinning stories, telling people what they want to hear and creating a whirlwind romance… it’s a timely reminder that “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is” and “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet”.
The bottom line: Pulpy