1. For its seductive and unsettling hero
At the heart of the Netflix documentary, Simon Leviev is a charismatic thirty-something conman from Israel who scams women all over the world. His modus operandi? He claims to be the son of a diamond tycoon and invents a billionaire-influencer life for himself with luxury restaurants, bling holidays and designer clothes, when in reality the criminal is constantly borrowing from others. Shimon Yehuda Hayut (his real name) flirts on Tinder to find victims likely to fall under his spell. In thrall to his romanticism and his bank account (he can arrange to fly women to distant cities although they’ve just met), many single women fall for him. And when he pretends he's in danger, they don't hesitate to give him millions of dollars to help him out of a tight spot. Flamboyant, superficial, temperamental and angry, his lies and double dealings are fascinating. It is sometimes hard to believe that he really exists, so huge are the scams he pulled between 2015 and 2019.
2. For the astounding accounts of women who were scammed
One of the main appeals of this gripping thriller-like documentary, directed by Felicity Morris (producer of the series Don't F**k With Cats about the killer Luka Magnotta), is the people it portrays. Several Scandinavian women openly testify about the scam they fell for. One of them, Cecilie, a 29-year-old Norwegian woman residing in London who believed in Prince Charming, is suffering from depression and has considered suicide. Another had only befriended the swindler before he took a large sum of money from her. While many viewers have deplored the gullibility and greed of the victims (blinded by private jets), the documentary can be seen to analyse relationships in the age of dating apps and social media. Through screens, it seems easier to make people believe in another life, another person. Shimon Yehuda Hayut sent thousands of messages to the women he courted, often copy-pasting them from one target to another. And it was on Instagram that he showcased a luxurious lifestyle to lure the hopefuls.
3. For the exhilarating sense of revenge the show provided
Far from being passive, the swindler's victims reported their stories to newspapers to draw attention to a man who is still running free today, despite the charges against him. Convicted in 2011 in Israel, he escaped a fine or prison sentence by fleeing. Tried in Finland in 2015 for swindling three women, he then assumed a string of fake identities and took sudden trips to evade arrest. But since the series aired, things have become more complicated for the man who allegedly got his hands on a total of ten million dollars from his victims. Everyone now knows his face and it didn’t take long for dating apps to ban Shimon Yehuda Hayut. Several of the conman's conquests also managed to recover the money they had lost by creating money pots. Many people were touched by their stories and thoroughly enjoyed one of the show's most spectacular moments, when one of his disappointed lovers, the fearless Ayleen, sold online the designer clothes belonging to the man who had destroyed her morally, to seek revenge for her suffering.
The Tinder Swindler (2022) by Felicity Morris, available on Netflix.