Millennial Woman Scammed Out of $140,000 Over Dating Site | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Ayleen Charlotte was scammed out of $140,000 after falling for a man who became known as the “Tinder Swindler”, and she told Newsweek the signs she looks for now to steer clear of fraudsters.

Shimon Hayut, otherwise known as Simon Leviev, scammed millions of dollars from women whom he met through Tinder. Several believed he was in love with them, and many are still feeling the sting of their debts today.

Charlotte, who’s from the Netherlands, learned her boyfriend’s identity after reading a newspaper article that featured some of his other victims, Cecilie Fjellhøy and Pernilla Sjoholm.

She then decided to play along and help orchestrate his arrest by Interpol while acting like Hayut’s loyal girlfriend. All of this was depicted in the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler.

Ayleen Charlotte opened up to Newsweek about getting scammed by the “Tinder Swindler” and how to protect yourself. Illustration of Tinder logo inset.

Ayleen Charlotte/MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images

Hayut was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2019 but ended up only serving five months before he was released.

While her story went viral, Charlotte’s experience is not unique. The FTC found consumers lost a total of $1.3 billion to scammers posing online as romantic interests, either via dating apps or websites.

Today, as romance scams remain at an all-time high, Charlotte warns others of possible warning signs she missed.

“Fraudsters work very hard to gain your trust until you’re emotionally dependent on them, creating opportunities to build pressure and fear,” Charlotte told Newsweek. “Eventually, they invent a crisis to make you want to support and rescue them. This repeats itself over and over until you are completely empty in your heart and your wallet. When you have nothing left to give, the fraudster disappears.”

Charlotte said the biggest red flag is when a person asks you to loan them money, especially when they have a sense of urgency and don’t want you to take the time to think rationally or understand the situation.

Years after sharing her story on the Tinder Swindler Netflix documentary, Charlotte said her life looks quite different.

“My biggest goals now are to break down the taboo of fraud, make fraud more open for discussion and not let the criminals win,” Charlotte said.

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, many Americans have fallen for romance scams of this nature. The deceptions can be costly, tricking well-meaning singles out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Maria Emilia Dreilich, the owner of, also found herself deceived after meeting a fellow traveler online whom she soon fell head over heels for.

“It was only a few days later before we were professing our love for each other,” Dreilich told Newsweek. “It felt like an adventure one reads about in novels. It was a kind of whirlwind romance.”

After learning of her new love interest’s past suffering and money misfortune, Dreilich also felt compelled to hand over cash for emergencies, visas and unforeseen travel costs.

“All told, I spent thousands of dollars,” Dreilich said. “It wasn’t just the financial loss. It was all of that, but above all else mental anguish.”

Dreilich said if the declarations of love and promises for the future seem too good to be true, they probably are.

How To Protect Yourself

Romance scams remain high as one of the most prevalent and cruel types of financial fraud on the Internet, Andy Renshaw, the SVP of product management at financial fraud detection software company Feedzai, said.

In Feedzai’s most recent Human Impact of Financial Crime Report, two-thirds of consumers indicated they’d been the victim of a romance scam themselves or knew someone else who had personally. And the hit to your wallet can be deep, with 13 percent saying they had lost more than $8,400 due to the scammers.

And as artificial intelligence ramps up, it can be even easier for romance scammers to profess their love to hundreds of potential victims while appearing to be an actual would-be partner.

“It’s never been easier for criminals to use tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney to create entirely believable online personas that are becoming increasingly difficult to spot,” Renshaw told Newsweek.

New technology has erased some of the prior tactics scammers used, including copying photographs of other social media users to make a believable profile. Now consumers can easily reverse-image search those, but they might not be as aware when an AI-generated image is the face of who they think they’re dating.

There are some more glaring red flags to consider when falling in love online though.

Renshaw said if their profile only exists on one platform, it might be suspicious since most real humans have multiple accounts.

If a profile was recently created, that could also be a warning sign, alongside any odd wording or grammar.

“Be wary of messages that contain odd phrasing, repetitive language, or inconsistencies that could indicate AI-generated text,” Renshaw said. “If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally or seems scripted, it may be a red flag.”

Generic messages are also a key sign that your potential lover is an AI romance scam in disguise. Experts say fraudsters often routinely refuse to send additional pictures or videos, and if they do, they can be very generic.

Alan Saquella, a security and intelligence studies professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, has watched several female friends victimized by these types of scammers, with one losing $5,000 in the process.

“The perpetrators exploit individuals seeking relationships by utilizing fabricated images to establish a false sense of trust before soliciting money, ostensibly for bills or travel expenses to meet in person,” Saquella told Newsweek.

If the person you’re conversing with is far away, moves the relationship quickly and breaks promises to visit, you should be on high alert, experts say. And if they ask for money or specific payment methods, that’s your cue to run.

Still, there are steps to take before scammers even reach out to manipulate you, Norton security expert Iskander Sanchez-Rola said.

“The more scammers know about you, the more they know how to lure you,” Sanchez-Rola told Newsweek. “For this reason, consider keeping your online dating profiles anonymous by using different usernames on sites or even different emails to protect your privacy.”

Altogether, romance scams were believed to have surged 19 percent in the past year, according to behavioral biometrics cybersecurity firm BioCatch.

North America was at the precipice of this increase, with a 183 percent uptick in romance scams.

And while dating apps may be seen as the younger generation’s game, older consumers may be more at risk. People aged 55 to 64 saw a 49 percent increase in scams in 2023, with those aged 65 to 74 incurring the highest financial losses.

Scammers looking to target millennials and Gen Z will use platforms like Tinder or TikTok. But for Gen X and above, Facebook and Bumble can be more effective, according to Seth Ruden, the director of global advisory at BioCatch.

“These bad actors can find vulnerable people who are lonely and approach them, and fine-tune their attack on the victims that are aligned with their modes of operation,” Ruden told Newsweek. “Generations don’t have a lock on who’s vulnerable.”

Romance scams may be growing in the aftermath of the pandemic as well, when people became more isolated and homebound.

“This is making it harder for people to meet dating partners and it’s leading to people feeling more lonely,” Chris Pierson, the CEO of data privacy platform BlackCloak, told Newsweek.