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Woman holding smartphone with Tinder on the screen

Tinder - one of the most widely used dating apps.

Tinder Swindler: How to avoid dating scams and catfishing this Valentines Day

The Tinder Swindler documentary was released earlier this month on Netflix, which reveals the true story of how a conman used Tinder to lure unsuspecting victims into his elaborate scam. It is estimated that Simon Leviev managed to acquire around 10 million dollars from his victims.

While romance fraud is not usually something to be in the spotlight, it is a very real issue which the majority of people are completely unaware of. It usually involves the scammer making use of online dating apps such as Tinder to target individuals looking for love, who are then exploited through emotional manipulation.

These kinds of scams may be more common than you think, and for that reason we will be providing some insight into the ways in which you can protect yourself from landing up in the same boat.

Firstly, it is important to understand the tactics used by these individuals. The process commonly involves the fraudster making contact, gaining trust, and building a relationship. This process can often take a number of months.

After trust has been gained, the scammer will usually then begin asking for money – using elaborate stories to convince the victim that they are legitimate. Examples include medical or family emergencies, banking issues, and in the case of the Tinder Swindler – to help save him from his “enemies” who are after him.

While this may seem far-fetched, it happens all the time. Below are our top tips to protect yourself online:


This involves researching the individual to ensure that they are who they say they are. Look them up on Google, on social media, and request to meet them in person (even if it’s virtually). This is where social and digital media screening can be so valuable! If you’d like to learn more about this practise, click here.


There are usually a number of red flags which could help you identify a potential fraudster, these include:

  • The fact that they ask a lot of questions about you without providing much detail about themselves
  • They “fall for you” very early on
  • They avoid meeting in person or constantly make excuses about why they can’t do so
  • They ask to chat on Whatsapp or outside of the dating app
  • If it seems too good to be true – it probably is!


South Africa has a number of laws for the protection of personal information (POPIA). This is there for a reason – to protect you. However, there is nothing to protect you if you willingly hand out your personal details such as home address, passport or important documents, contact details, personal login details and even your place of employment. Be very mindful about what you share with people you don’t actually know!


While this may seem obvious – it needs to be mentioned. Scammers are after one thing – and the minute they get what they want, the show will come to an end. No matter how convincing the story, don’t do it.


As a collective society, we need to work together to prevent others from falling victim. If you have a run-in with a scammer, make sure you report them to the dating site, or to the police. If you don’t do anything about it – it will continue to happen.

While dating apps can be a great way to meet new people and find someone special, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from being scammed in the process. We hope that these simple tips can help to protect you online, and if you have any others to share – make sure you put them in the comments below.