We like to think that we’re too smart to be taken advantage of by a scammer, but some are willing to invest a tremendous amount of time and effort for a payout. Many do not come forward because of the fear, shame, and victim-blaming, but that’s not true with today’s guest.
Today’s guest is Ayleen Charlotte. Ayleen was one of the women featured in the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler. She made a radical choice between victimhood or becoming a beacon of female empowerment. After what became five years of misery, she decided not only to tell her story, but to make a lifelong entrepreneurial dream come true.“If someone is asking you for money and trying to push you, take a step back, shut down your phone, and think about it for a few days.” - Ayleen Charlotte Click To Tweet
- [1:20] – When Ayleen contacted, there were already other women victimized, but Ayleen was a big part of the Tinder Swindler’s arrest.
- [2:49] – She had three goals that participating in the documentary helped achieve.
- [4:27] – Ayleen met this scammer five years ago and started a relationship with him.
- [5:19] – Because he claimed to have many enemies, he moved in with Ayleen and used her money and credit cards to “stay under the radar.”
- [6:58] – The lavish lifestyle he lived made sense with the story he provided to the women he victimized.
- [8:15] – One indicator that something was wrong was that money given back to her in the form of a check would never go through.
- [9:40] – He always had an operation to start and Ayleen took several personal loans to help with these endeavors.
- [11:27] – He laid a foundation of trust with the small things.
- [13:15] – Ayleen says that in the beginning, he really made her feel special. The development of the relationship was going well and very believable.
- [14:18] – There is a big difference between this situation and other types of fraud, as there was a real relationship built.
- [16:15] – The Tinder Swindler used the same stories over and over again with every victim.
- [17:08] – Even when he had “interactions” with enemies, he would show up with real injuries.
- [18:15] – Some of the people on his team did not know they were part of this, although Ayleen says his bodyguard and his right-hand were aware.
- [19:51] – An article was released about him and Ayleen saw it and immediately knew.
- [21:18] – Ayleen lists some of the reasons he gave for the article being released. In this instance, Ayleen trusted the article over him.
- [22:43] – When he continued to ask for money, Ayleen was in contact with the police. She wound up tricking him and, in a way, taking some of her money back.
- [25:58] – If Ayleen didn’t give him money, he made it clear that she would be in danger from his enemies.
- [27:18] – If someone is asking you for money and trying to push you, take a step back, shut down your phone, and think about it for a few days.
- [28:38] – Over time, Ayleen saw a change in character, especially when she stopped sending him money.
- [30:44] – The Tinder Swindler started his fraud schemes at the age of 15 and did not only target women. He swindled men as well as organizations and charities.
- [32:26] – He is not able to get a real job or career at this point. This is the only thing he can do and he will continue. He is still out there, living in Israel.
- [33:50] – The documentary has helped in slowing his scam.
- [35:39] – Ayleen’s trust of other people has not been impacted. She knows that she has experienced the worst already.
- [37:29] – Ayleen says the best thing you can do in a situation like this is to talk about it.
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Ayleen, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today.
Yes, thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me as well.
You're welcome. You are one of the people from The Tinder Swindler and the clarity is you are not the swindler.
No, I’m not.
We're going to talk through the documentary and your experience. Can you give an overview of how the documentary was created and how you became involved in it?
Pernilla and Cecilie, the two other girls from the documentary, were already in the media for a while because of the article from VG, the Norwegian paper. It's called The Tinder Swindler as well.
They came across an agent in the USA and they wanted to make a documentary about the full story. That's when they contacted me to be part of the documentary because, in a way, I had a big role in his arrest, but also I swindled the Tinder Swindler.
It was a great ending for the documentary.
Was it something that you were wanting to do? What was your underlying reason for why you wanted to participate?
First, I had to think about it for a few months, and they were contacting me all the time to participate. Eventually, I chose to participate because I had three goals. I wanted to put his face out there so everybody knew and knew that he is a fraud and that he cannot hurt any more people.
I wanted to make the police do something about this case because he didn't only defraud girls, but also families, men, and companies. I wanted to show the police force that they need to chase this guy and I wanted to help people who are in the same position as I was.
In a way, I took back a bit of strength during the swindle and I wanted to show people that you can take it back and put it in your own hands again if you stay strong. That's what I wanted to show to the world as well.
Can you give me and the audience an overview of what the swindle was? It's a very long story. Do you refer to him as Simon, or Shimon, or something else?
Yeah, something else because in my eyes he is a person and he's not like a real, proper guy, a very nice guy. I don't have any bad names for him but I don't want to call his name because I don't know who he is.
The story is, I met him on Tinder five years ago. In the first few months, we had a nice relationship. We saw each other often.
After seven months, he already tried to tell me that he has enemies because of the job he was doing. He was working for the Leviev—company of his father. It's a diamond company. In that segment, you have a lot of enemies. After several months, he had so many enemies that he needed to lower himself to hide a little bit.
That's when he started to live with me. And because everything needed to be under the radar for him, he asked me to use my credit cards and my money. That's when it all started. That's when I gave him my money because I trusted him, of course.
Did he have a lavish lifestyle before this happened?
Yes. Because I was traveling a lot for work, for example in Barcelona, he visited me. When I was in London, he visited me in London. When I was in Paris, he visited me in Paris. In a way, I thought he cared about me and he wanted to see me. That's why he goes to me a lot.
He was living a lavish lifestyle. He was buying a lot of expensive clothes. He was flying private jets. He had a team around him he always called. He was living a lavish lifestyle.
That's one of those things to me that I think of when a con is happening, if a person can't back up what they say, so to speak. That's like, “Oh, yeah, I have this rich lifestyle, but I'm driving a 40-year-old car.” That doesn't seem right.
But all of his story kind of made sense that he'd have enemies because of the diamond industry. There's some history there in the diamond industry. It made sense that he had a fair amount of money if he was in the diamond industry, and that he could fly all over the world doing stuff. His background kind of made sense, right?
Yes. It all made sense. As you said, I never saw him driving, for example, a Ford Fiesta. It was always expensive cars—Rolls Royces, Ferraris, private jets, and luxury travel tickets for long flights. It all backed up wearing Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Louis Vuitton all the time, so it made sense.
In a lot of people's eyes, his story was true.
Yeah. All the indications at that point were that it was a true story.
At what point did it turn? You talked about how he started saying, “I've got to be kind of low profile. I've got to hide and not make my presence known.” What happened after that?
Well, he sent me a check to back up the money he loaned from me and it didn't come through so I needed to wait and wait. There was always a problem with receiving the money.He sent me a check to back up the money he loaned from me and it didn't come through so I needed to wait and wait. There was always a problem with receiving the money. -Ayleen Charlotte Click To Tweet
In a way, he always told me a very believable story. It was a very big amount so it was possible that the bank didn't accept it because I was just a regular person, in a way. The IRS was holding the money. There were a lot of options he could have told me that made his story more true.
When the money didn't arrive, he sent me another check. I already waited for over maybe eight or nine weeks. During that period, I was just giving him money all the time because I believed that the money would arrive and that he sent it to me.
After that, I also took out personal loans because he always had this operation going on. He always called it an operation. At a certain point—I think after a few months, maybe three or four—I figured out that in every operation he started when he had 10 steps, he always came to step nine, and then everything blew.
I think it was already the sixth operation he started so it made me a little bit in disbelief because I didn't receive some money. He keeps on needing it. He keeps on pushing me. Whenever he wanted to finish the operation, he came to step nine.
After a few months, after a while, I found out that maybe this wasn't right.
He was having a lavish lifestyle, giving you gifts. Did he ever give you any money or was it just always gifts or travel and things like that?
He did give me money in the beginning, mostly cash. Because I was also paying his phone bills, he always paid them back. You’ll believe that he's trustworthy to loan him more money because I knew he’ll pay me back.
Yeah. It's not like on day one 30 minutes after you've met him on Tinder, “Give me $10 million.”
It was very incremental and he kind of proved his trustworthiness with the small things and laid a foundation of trust.
Yes. And like I said, it took him over seven months to ask me for money. In a seven or eight-month relationship, you are trusting that person. You have a very strong connection at that point already.
Those are the feedback I got from the documentary that I swiped to the right on Tinder and then he asked me maybe two days later for $140,000. And yes, of course, I gave it. But no, it's completely not the story.
Don't always believe exactly what you see on TV and what the perceptions of the stories are.
They have to sell a story, not just a documentary.
Yes. And even some comments are also taking their time because some people will take maybe two or three years to gain trust. Others are taking a few weeks and others taking a few months. They always try to get you to a certain point where trust is born.
It's interesting because it's a lot different than a lot of online scams. After two hours of chatting, “I want to marry you. I love you. Give me access to your bank account.” after 30 minutes. This was a very long, extended process.
Yes, absolutely. He made me feel like a princess in the beginning because he traveled to me. Whenever he said, “I really wanted to see you so I'm coming to Amsterdam. I'm coming to London for you.” He makes you feel special.He made me feel like a princess in the beginning because he traveled to me. Whenever he said, “I really wanted to see you so I'm coming to Amsterdam. I'm coming to London for you.” He makes you feel special. -Ayleen Charlotte Click To Tweet
It wasn't like you're constantly going to where he was but he was—
Traveling to me.
And not just saying, “Oh, I'm going to go. I'll be there. Oh, gosh, I missed the plane flight or my car broke down.” None of that sort of nonsense?
No. He was actually there. We really met.
I feel really sorry also for the people who got defrauded by online dating, who never met the actual person. But in my case, it's a little bit different because I actually met him almost one-and-a-half years ago. There is a big difference between so many types of fraud that are happening in the world. I feel sorry for everybody who is defrauded, of course.
Yeah. Well, that's why we're having this conversation. If we can keep one person from this happening to them, whether it's online fraud or in-person con, the ultimate goal is to raise awareness and help prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Yes, absolutely. Because it's a traumatic experience and I know from personal experience. It's horrible.
Having to watch the Netflix documentary, looking back at it, at what point did it start to get crazy?
I'm sorry. I don't understand the question. Sorry.
I know at some point he claims to have been assaulted and that his enemies have now caught up with him. It seems to be this is possibly a repeated story. What was that scenario and at what point did that happen?
With me, it happened after several months I knew him. That's why he needed to stay low and that's why he moved in with me.
For example, he used that story with Cecilie already in March of 2018. He told the story in May or June of 2018 to me. And with Pernilla, he told the story in November.
He uses the same story over and over again to make people believe that his real enemies were behind him and that he was caught up and beaten up and his bodyguard got beaten up. He was asking for money but then he already got our trust.
After his claims of being assaulted and beaten up, did he show up in person with any injuries, or was it just a photo of injuries?
No. I think two days after the incident happened, he had a few cuts on his hands and his face. It wasn't only the pictures. He showed up not at my doorstep but at the place where I worked with injuries.
It made it all so real but maybe he did it to himself. I don't know.
Yeah. It's kind of scary that if he's repeating this thing multiple times and he's showing up with injuries, is he doing this to himself, or is he having someone do this to him?
Do you know if any of his team was part of the scam? Did you ever meet any of his team?
Yes. But in a way, the people which he called his team didn't know that they were a part of the team, as he called them.
I did meet a few people, but they were also victims, which I found out later. I think his bodyguard knew a bit more and also his right hand knew more about the scam because his right hand is still with him today. He must have known more.
Yeah. You would think that if the bodyguard or the team members traveled with him at some point, “I’m hearing that he's telling different stories to different people or telling the same story at different times to different people.”
Yes. For example, you can see in a documentary video he recorded for Cecilie. It was in the private plane together with his bodyguards. He made the same video for me as well in the same setting only with a different name. They must have known more.
Maybe not the full extent of it, but they definitely knew he was up to something.
Actually, let's finish the story. At what point did you decide to change to get out of the situation?
I think after a few months, the story was becoming more in disbelief. At a certain point, I was waiting for him to come to me instead of me giving money to him.
On February 16 in 2019, the article came out and I was with him and I told him several times already for a longer period that I couldn't arrange any more money because I was broke. When I was with him in Prague, he just dropped me off at the airport. That's when I saw his face on my feed, so thank you so much Cecilie and Pernilla for just giving me this article.
And I don't know why it turned up on my feed. It was very weird. But it was there and I immediately knew that was the moment when I didn't give him any more money because I knew I got defrauded.
After that, did he still try to connect with you and try to get more money from you?
Yes. Because the article came out on the 16th of February and I was still in touch with him until June when he got arrested by Interpol at that point.
What was his explanation for the article?
It was all fake. The girls, Cecilie and Pernilla, got paid for it by his enemies. I don't know. It woke me up. Like I always say, it was a wake-up call for me.
Of course, I immediately trusted the article because there were so many similarities. It couldn't be any different. It couldn't be that I still trusted him because that wouldn't be weird.
The conspiracy against him would have to be incredibly good for them to have all this information about him and the similarities in the story and everything that happened.
Yes, absolutely. I didn't believe him anymore, of course, and that's when my fight started.
Tell us about your fight and what you did.
Because I was in such a big debt, I thought I needed some of my money back. At that point, I was already talking to the police, and I thought, “How can I get my money back because I'm not going to get it from him.”
Of course, he was still asking me for money because he wanted to start a new operation. And I said, “Well, you have so many expensive clothes and you need to be laying low.” because of the article and he needed to hide. So I said, “You can give all the clothes to me, and then I will sell them for you and send you the money.” That's when I went to Prague, and he believed me.
He bought me a ticket to Prague and I picked up three big suitcases of 32 kilos per piece. I still don't know how I did it but I did it because I had a goal and the only goal I had was to get back home with the suitcases because I knew then I never had to see him again.
Then we played girlfriend and boyfriend for almost one and a half, two days in Prague and that's when I traveled back.
That must have been satisfying to be able to get his stuff from him.
Yes, absolutely. Because I knew that in a way I paid it all myself. Because I used to work in high-end fashion and I knew it was the latest collection, I gave him so much money. I knew that it was the latest collection. I gave him the money at that time so he must have bought it with my money.
Did you keep any of it as a souvenir of getting back at him?
Yes. I do have a sunglass and I have a few other things, which I keep as a souvenir, but maybe I could sell them later for even more money if he's behind bars.
That would be nice.
Once you saw the article, you're like “OK, I know this guy is a scam.” Looking back before that, were there red flags that you could now look back and say, “Oh, I should have seen this.” or, “If I had paid more attention to this, it would have been clearer to me.”
Yes. Especially about asking me for money—he keeps on pushing me. He didn't give me any time to think rationally. If I would ask my family member or a friend for money, I would make them think about it for maybe a week or two weeks, because that's a normal way to ask someone for money.
With him, it was different. I found out some sort of pattern that whenever he needed money, he was love bombing me, like, pushing me but also threatening me. For example, if I didn't give him money, he would be dead, or it was my fault if he got murdered. He always used those types of things against me like it was my fault if I didn't give him any money.With him, it was different. I found out some sort of pattern that whenever he needed money, he was love bombing me, like, pushing me but also threatening me. For example, if I didn't give him money, he would be dead, or it was my… Click To Tweet
In a way, you’ll feel so much pressure and you also think of your own life because that's what he also told me, that I was in danger because people knew where I live. People knew where I work. People knew about my travel from work to home. People knew where my family lived. In a way, he was also threatening not only me, but also my family, and the people who are visiting my house if I didn't give him any money. That's when you think, “OK. Now it's life or death. Yes. Of course, I will help you” because you don't want to see your boyfriend die.
This is especially for the listeners. If someone is asking you for money and trying to push you, just take a step back, shut down your phone and think about it for a few days, because you don't want to be in so much trouble as I was in.If someone is asking you for money and trying to push you, just take a step back, shut down your phone and think about it for a few days, because you don't want to be in so much trouble as I was in. -Ayleen Charlotte Click To Tweet
I think that’s the best advice I can give. Like I just said, in a normal way if you ask your friends or your family for money, you will give them a week or two weeks to think about it. And that's what fraud people don't do. They don't want to give you that time because they keep on bombing you until you say yes.
Interestingly, he was using both, kind of love bombing you and threatening you at the same time. It's a very interesting contradiction and behavior to speak.
Yeah, it's something you will also see in the documentary. At a certain point, they caught all the voice memos I got from him at that time where he wanted money for the clothes, and in a way, he was very aggressive.
He also gave me a lot of threats, but he was also very sweet because he said, “Ayleen, you are the only person who can help me. Please. I love you so much, and I know you love me.” When I still said no, he was like, “But you were screwing up my life and it's your fault.” In a way, you can see the change of character as well.
Did that get worse over time in the sense that he got more extreme both with the affection and with the threats as time went by?
Yes, absolutely. Especially after the time when I got his clothes but didn't send him any more money.
Sometimes it was really funny to also play around a bit because I remember when I was on the terrace with my friends. Very nice weather. He sent me over 35 messages but also voice memos of 30 minutes. And I said, “OK, look. We're going to play with him.” I just sent something back and then the message is gone even more and more.
The reason why they are acting that way is because they are losing control. At that point, he didn't have any control over me anymore so he wanted to get it back but he couldn't.
Once he lost control, he just went over the top?
Yes, absolutely. It was a very horrible experience but also a bit funny.
I can see the liberation at the end of being able to do that. That's who he is right there.
Yes. It's like, “So if I don't give you any more money, now you're acting like this? Thank you.”
Do you know the extent of how many people he has swindled over at what period of time?
Well, he started this when he was fifteen or sixteen I think. He made a lot of victims over the years. Like I already said before, it wasn't only women. It was also men, charities, and companies. I know that there is a company in the UK he swindled for over £1 million.
He is a very big scammer. I'm not going to say it because it will only caress his ego. He's very good at hurting people and making people's lives miserable.
Do you think that his desire for control was part of what he did, or was it just the money?
I think I have control. I don't know if it was about the money because what he did with it was just spending it on bullshit, in a way. I think it's more to control the addiction because he's not able to work in a restaurant serving plates or working in a clothing store serving customers and advising, so this is the only thing he's capable of doing. He keeps on doing it until he's arrested.
Do you think the money that he used to jet set around the world in a lavish lifestyle was effectively money that he had conned from other people that he was then using to support his con against more people?
Yes, absolutely. It's sort of like a Ponzi scheme.
That's unfortunate. Do you know where he is today?
He’s still in Israel, I think, but he's out there and still living his life, unfortunately. But I still believe that karma will get him one day.
Yeah. Things like that usually work out at some point.
Maybe it'll take a while, and I'm not very good at having patience.
These sorts of things have a tendency to catch up with people over time.
Do you think that the documentary and the articles have helped kind of slow his ability to do what he does?
Yes, absolutely, because now a lot of people know his face. A lot of people know what he's capable of. But still, he is a very good talker. I guess that he is still making more victims.
I wanted to participate in this documentary because I think the police should work and put him behind bars where he belongs, by the way.
And I assume that the reason why he's not behind bars is because everybody that he’s swindled voluntarily gave him money, or is it just really hard to prove that there was a criminal action?
No. I think there's a lot of proof from people. For example, he sends voice notes. He sends fake checks. He sends a lot of videos about himself. I think there's a lot of proof, but I also think there are so many victims that it's slowed the case. If you need to interview them all, it may take a while.
It makes things complicated when you have so many potential people involved in one way or another.
How have your interactions with this impacted your life today? Has it made it harder for you to trust people and connect with people?
No, because I still believe that it happened in the past. And if I still keep on thinking, like, “I cannot trust him,” or, “I cannot trust her,” then it would have made my life even more miserable. I think I have experienced the worst of the worst so it could only get better.
I still have trust, and I still believe. I try not to make this story have too much impact on my future.
Yes. It's something that happened in the past but it doesn't define your future.
Yeah. That's a good saying.
What advice would you have for other people, whether they’re men or women, if they've fallen prey to either an online romance scam or a con man in person and they're fearful or feeling ashamed about talking about it? What would your advice to them be?
Please don't be afraid to talk about it because you will have more support if you talk about it than if you don't talk about it. People know how to react to you if you talk about it, and it's also in a way therapeutic to talk about it. I know it's a very, very, very big step, but please do it because it will only make your life better. I swear.
I think part of the talking about it is kind of taking back the power, so to speak.
Yes, absolutely. It takes back your power and puts life in your own hands again and takes control as well because that's the most important thing. You need to take control of your own life again after this happened to you. And I know, it's a very big step but please take it because it's the best step you can ever take
That's great. We can edit this out if you want to. If people want to get ahold of you or contact you, are you open to other people? If someone else has been in the same situation, is there anything that you can do to help them? Is that something that you do?
Yes, absolutely. People are sharing their stories a lot on my Instagram and I don't always have time to respond, but I try to. That's something I am open to because I think it's important to help each other as well.
Yeah, I think that there needs to be a place where people can go not necessarily commiserate, but not feel judged and have somebody say, “I know what you feel. I felt the same thing, and you'll get through it.”
All right. Ayleen, thank you so much for sharing your story. I appreciate you taking the time to share your story with our audience.
Yes. Thank you so much for having me again and I hope we can just help a few people more in these types of situations.
I'm sure it will help. Thank you very much.
Yes. Thank you so much.