What made the Tinder Swindler treat women so badly?

A psychologist explains the disturbing reasoning behind the mind of the Tinder Swindler from the viral Netflix documentary.

The dating app Tinder is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken February 10, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)
The dating app Tinder is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken February 10, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)

Dr. Ilan Rabinovich, like many in Israel, watched The Tinder Swindler and developed some rather alarming conclusions. Some of them concern women who will still engage with the fake Simon Leviev, but others actually relate to us as a society.

The Tinder Swindler is one of the most watched shows on Netflix Israel these days, and not for nothing. It’s a story of a man, an Israeli, who supposedly lived the dream while exploiting women who sought love. It evoked various emotions from viewers. At the center of this story is Shimon Yehuda Hayut, who was born into an ultra-Orthodox family in Bnei Brak, the son of Rabbi El Al. Shimon left his yeshiva at a young age for a relentless pursuit of imaginative wealth, a showy lifestyle wearing designer clothes, private jets and parties, women galore, and all while being extremely careful to always live at the expense of many men and women, especially to exploit them.

The Tinder Swindler, known as Simon Leviev, the alleged son of the tycoon Lev Leviev,  has a lot of charisma and personal charm that helped him get designer suits, private jet flights and a Porsche all with other people's money. Fraud is his way of life. Serious and perpetual fraud. He vanishes at the right moment while leaving law enforcement powerless. But how did he even get there?

The DSM-5, a psychiatric “bible” of sorts, divides the eccentric (extroverted) personality disorders into one group called cluster B. Among the personality types you will find there are:

Narcissistic personality 

Narcissistic personality disorder means having scarcity that created a conflict around self-confidence and a sense of worth as a result of a constant need for warmth, love and attention; fear of criticism and failure - sometimes akin to death, success as an existential-survival need, sensitivity and vulnerability mainly and sometimes only about the self, mood swings as a result of objective and subjective successes and a person’s self-view; worldview in black and white, tendency to drama, passions, drives resulting from a build-up in his mind; huge libido; need for power,money, sex, pleasure and success.

Hysterical personality

Hysterical personality disorder means conflict over self-confidence in masculinity/femininity; seduction as a way of life, desire to conquer as many "victims" as possible and move on when that victim has served their purpose;  a constant need for reinforcements and approvals for masculinity/femininity; stormy relationships like a soap opera which include intense passions and multiple betrayals; tendency to dramatize and see life as a film. Monogamy is impossible, they always seek the next one to conquer; after obtaining it they move to the next person.

Antisocial-psychopathic personality

Antisocial-psychopathic personality disorder means acting out of a belief that stems from a deep self-conviction that everything is allowed; no boundaries or value codes, there is no law, no judge and this person does what’s right to them. Empathy is only for the self so relating to others is only in terms of benefit - use and throw away. They use sophisticated manipulations to achieve goals and bring down victims while exploiting them. No guilt, no super inner ego to stop them. They don’t atone for sin. Deceiving is a way of life; they exploit and trample on people, the code of a civil society doesn’t apply. Cheating, forgery, extortion and theft of property are allowed for them and they can easily (inconceivably) move on to physical violence, threats and extortion, in extreme cases rape and even murder. They have no limits, especially when they feel they’re in danger and are threatened with capture. All means are permissible to achieve their purpose and escape from the law.

These divisions aren’t dichotomous, and when you mix the above three personality disorders at the highest level you get the so-called "Tinder Swindler.”

The origins of these personality disorders begin in childhood. Hayut's ultra-Orthodox family sat shiva for him. Other youths looked for style, to wear fashionable clothes, to be dynamic and prominent. Already at age 20, he stole checkbooks while working as a gardener and housekeeper at a home on the most expensive street in Israel, Gali Hatchelet. He forged signatures and bought his first Porsche. 

He later stole checks from the parents of a four-year-old boy who he abandoned on the street. Along the way he made sure to lie. First to a large travel company, where he impersonated a man with connections to stock market executives; he bought first class plane tickets. "I flew to Cyprus to study… my dream is to be a pilot and fly around the world," he explained to a judge at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court after fraud investigators caught him. He was released under house arrest and fled the country on a forged passport.

In Finland, he developed an expertise in stinging women through the Tinder dating app. After a year and a half in prison which didn’t reform him, he returned to Israel and again escaped from law enforcement with a fake passport and returned to Scandinavia. This time, on Tinder he presented himself as a businessman, diamond dealer and an owner of a flight company. He ate at upscale gourmet restaurants and stayed at the most luxurious hotels - the style only got better.

The method: He developed a deep personal connection for months, building a persona that creates credibility, always paid, surrounded himself with a helpful entourage, didn’t stay in one place for more than two days, was always on the move, flew in private jets and stayed in suites that cost thousands of dollars a night. He created the impression of a person without financial worries. He wore dozens of luxury watches, which he changed every day. To convey the visibility of a billionaire, in London he rode in a Rolls Royce with a driver, in Finland with a private jet and then when he felt the ground was solid, he asked for money due to an emergency. Thus the new stinger financed his previous debts, like a snowball accumulating more and more victims.

Can he be stopped? No. The list of victims grows as no one is immune to his magic. As a true professional in the field of fraud he evolved and became  more and more sophisticated.

Can he receive treatment and be a civilian like any other? One has to admit the truth as an experienced psychiatrist and say no. Clinicians can’t take apart a human personality and reassemble it.  We have no ability to turn sheer evil into innocence and kindness. We have no recipe for creating a tormented conscience. Only a long-term prison sentence of many years could possibly make him afraid to make more victims which won’t happen because of guilt or conscience. Only if he is afraid for his soul may he stop. For him, he sees in his world only himself and nothing more.

The question that perhaps most needs to be asked is not how Simon Leviev deceived these women, but what all this admiration and adoration attests to us as a society. If we admire this fraudulent psychopath, how low will we go in adulation for the next creep out there?