We had the opportunity to sit down with Maitland Ward, model and adult film actress with Vixen Media Group, for an exclusive chat about Tinder Swindler, the Netflix documentary that ought to be required watching for everyone who uses dating sites. Ward spoke at length about the many ways that women can protect themselves from dastardly schemers like the infamous Simon Leviev. The Boy Meets World star also had quite a lot to say about Leviev’s victims, who gave the convicted fraudster hundreds of thousands of dollars before learning of his true identity.
‘The Tinder Swindler’ Highlights Fraud Victims
The name on everyone’s lips in recent weeks has been Simon Leviev, real name Shimon Hayut. If you haven’t watched Netflix’s latest bombshell documentary, The Tinder Swindler, we can catch you up. Leviev portrayed himself as the wealthy son of a billionaire diamond tycoon on Tinder, drawing in young women and treating them to lavish dates.
After seducing them as either a lover or friend, he would then trick them into “lending” him massive sums of money, often pretending to be in physical danger from unnamed “enemies” to explain why he couldn’t use his fortune. Three of his victims, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte, took part in the documentary and went step by step through their relationship with him, from the first meeting to when they realized they had been scammed.
After their stories were shared, many online blasted the women for their perceived naivete, with some internet critics going so far as to accuse them of being gold diggers. Much of the audience’s reaction to the film could be summed up as “That would never happen to me,” but award-winning adult film star Maitland Ward would beg to differ.
Maitland Ward ‘Tinder Swindler’ Exclusive
We sat down for an exclusive interview with the Boy Meets World actress to talk about the different lessons women can learn from the documentary, as well as to discuss the overwhelming backlash against the victims. Ward expressed a great deal of sympathy for the women affected by Leviev’s treachery, especially in light of the negative reaction they’ve faced online.
“It’s very sad because they did want to help someone out and they were willing to sacrifice so much to help,” Ward told us. “They were willing to give so much of themselves,” she added. When it comes to online criticism that blames the victims, Ward said, “I don’t think it’s ever good to blame a victim of a crime.”
What Is ‘Love Bombing’?
Ward noted that Leviev showed all the classic signs of “love bombing,” which is a tactic used in many abusive relationships. It’s the “honeymoon” phase, so to speak, which is almost always followed by abuse in some form. In the case of The Tinder Swindler, the love-bombing took the form of expensive presents, luxurious dinner dates, and extravagant vacations.
“Love bombing is a very dangerous thing because it feels great,” Ward explained. “It feels like you have got the romance, you’re on top of the world. You’ve got it all. But then it always comes with a twist and a price.”
“He was playing into that fairy tale that a lot of girls grow up with. To get this rich handsome man who sweeps them off their feet and loves them and is true to them and takes them around the world. And you become a princess.” When asked about accusations that the women were “gold diggers,” Ward scoffed at the idea.
Only One ‘Gold Digger’ Here, Says Ward
“They gave all their money in the end,” she said of Leviev’s victims. “They weren’t women looking to ‘gold dig.’ I think gold diggers would be women seeking out men solely for the purpose of getting money. They wouldn’t fall for those games quite as much, because they wouldn’t be in it with their hearts. They’d be trying to swindle him.”
If anyone’s the gold digger in this situation, Ward added, it’s Leviev. “He’s the gold digger! He literally dug all their gold!” It’s reported by The Tab that Cecilie Fjellhøy gave an estimated £200,000 to Leviev, while his other victim, Ayleen Charlotte, gave £100,000.
“It’s exciting to be on such a wild adventure. It’s not just the money,” Ward continued, “but this whole lifestyle that you’ve never known about and going places and having this exciting life and doing things you would never do normally. People can really get caught up in that.”
So, what are Maitland Ward’s top tips to avoid scammers online?
“I think one of the first clues is that if someone is going to say online that they’re a ‘billionaire’ and advertise this, advertise your lifestyle in public, that’s a red flag. And I’m not gonna blame the girls for falling for that. but all of us who are looking in from the outside, if you see a billionaire online? I don’t think he would need to hunt for dates or try to get random hookups [on a dating app]. I think they would always be available to him.”
“If there were a wealthy businessman, he would play it down, not wanting to be ‘gold dug.’ I mean, this guy was inviting gold-digging!”
Slow And Steady
“It’s always a good idea to ‘slow’ into things. Anytime something happens too fast, the opposite will happen. When they’re too in love with you in the beginning, it’s like…they don’t even know you yet. I think that was the problem. He swept that first girl off her feet. He took her on the plane ride. It’s easy to be like ‘Wow’ at that celebrity lifestyle or big money lifestyle. Something that seems unattainable. It’s so ripe for the grasping. And he knew that. And that’s what he used to trick all the girls.”
Beware Those Who Ask For Too Much
“When anyone’s asking you to sacrifice too big, and if you’re not comfortable with it they’re pressuring you to do that? That gets [you] into a very bad situation. [Leviev] would yell at them and get really mean right after they would be like, ‘I don’t know…’ If they really cared about you, they wouldn’t ask you to do that.”
Perfection In Profiles Is A Red Flag
“I always like it when a guy – or a girl – isn’t perfect with their profile. They seem real. They don’t seem like they know what they’re doing so much. It’s interesting because as an actor and performer, I have to know how to do that stuff, it’s my job. But as a swindler, you know how to advertise. I think that’s how we get roped into [scams].”
Trust Your Friends Or Inner Circle
“We’ve all been in relationships where your friends are like ‘Uhh, what are you doing?’I think it’s very important to have a friend or a group of friends who are watching out [for you]. If there’s a group of people who are all telling you [the same thing], it’s probably true. Because you can be fooled.”
All in all, the old adage rings true, Ward said. “If it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true,” she insisted. It can be a cold world out there, with wolves looking to take advantage wherever they can. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart, but be careful about giving it to just anyone.