A number of cases have hit the news recently relating to scams or frauds carried out using Tinder. The Tinder app is available in nearly two hundred countries, with an average of 1.6 billion “swipes” per day. With 50 million users, there is a wide audience for scams and fraud.
Malware is a common online threat, where a person is directed to scam web pages which enable scammers to obtain personal information that can lead to identity theft. Another scam is to send an account verification request where a third party link is provided, again to obtain personal details.
Catfishing can be another issue and one which has been the subject of recent media attention. Catfishing is the process of luring someone into a relationship using a fictional online persona. While some “catfish” may just want someone to talk to, the activity could also be for financial gain or to compromise the other person in some way.
In 2010 Harkirat Assi was contacted by a man called Bobby who said he was the brother of a boy Assi’s cousin used to date. A friendship developed; they became close and then grew apart over the years before rekindling the friendship. Years of deception began with Assi first being told Bobby had died, but then that he was actually in a witness protection programme but was in ill health and suicidal. The two became a couple in 2015, with Bobby even sending flowers and gifts to her and setting up fake profiles for his family on a Facebook group. The deception was finally discovered in 2018 when Assi’s younger cousin confessed that she had been masquerading as Bobby all along. In 2021 Assi won a civil claim against her cousin for the deception with an apology and a financial settlement.
Shimon Heyada Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, from Israel, met women on Tinder and fooled them into thinking he was the son of a billionaire diamond merchant, scamming them out of £7.4million. He was outed in a Netflix documentary, “The Tindler Swindler”. Hayut would spend lavish amounts on hotels and gifts on victims using money from other victims. Hayut established lines of credit and loans in the names of his victims, leaving them with the debt. His modus operandi was to meet a woman on Tinder and take them on an impressive and costly first date; an example was a trip on a private jet. He would continue to build the relationship, at the same time as “dating” others. At some point, he would claim that he was in danger, providing photos of his injured bodyguards to support his story. Then he would ask that his girlfriend open a credit card for him to use as it wasn’t safe to use his own. Hayut would avoid repayment using various excuses, threats and avoidance. Hayut was subsequently arrested and convicted of fraud in Israel; he was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment.
Richard Dexter sometimes referred to as the Hampshire Tinder fraudster, also met his victim on Tinder in 2015. Dexter was said to have “shared intimate information” to get his victim’s trust and then convinced her that he needed money for a patent catalogue; she gave him £40,000. He then told her he was on the verge of a huge windfall from investments in biopharmaceutical technology and needed a £68,000 upfront investment. The victim ended up sending him a total of £141,500. Dexter’s backstory was that he said he was worth almost £7m and that he was involved in Hollywood Studios, owned private jets and had once bought a hot air balloon on a whim. Dexter pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and was convicted of perverting the course of justice and possession of articles for use in fraud. He was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment; the question of repayment of monies is to be dealt with at a later date.
As Tinder is used across many countries, the issue of jurisdiction could arise when an offence is committed. As can be seen, by the examples above, a variety of offences can be committed. Therefore, it is vital that you obtain expert legal advice if you are accused of such criminality.
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[Image: Image Courtesy: Denis Bocquet (www.flickr.com/photos/66944824@N05/14837259957), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic]