Women who lost thousands to ‘Tinder Swindlers’ – including mum kidnapped by date

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Viewers worldwide have been horrified by the cunning deception involved in romance frauds after The Tinder Swindler aired on Netflix.

Bogus billionaire Simon Leviev was the focus of the show after he was accused of fleecing women out of millions.

It is alleged the Israeli – born Shimon Hayut – used the dating app Tinder to lure women before tricking them into loaning him cash that he’s never repaid.

But his manipulative tactics of defrauding singletons won’t come as a surprise to some British women.

That’s because in the UK, citizens lost a whopping £92million to romance frauds last year.

And Ruth Grover, who runs ScamHaters United, told the Daily Star: “Tinder Swindler aside, most romance swindlers use stolen pictures and involve overseas scammers using cyber numbers to disguise who they are.

“Be aware that not every swindler on Tinder or on any dating site is using their own face.

“Get proof of who you are speaking to by maybe a video call, a real person will happily chat.

“It does not matter if he or she is the most beautiful person on the planet, as soon as money is mentioned, trust your gut and not your heart and get out.

“You can't buy love so don't use money as a way to keep your online stranger lover happy.”

With this in mind, here we take a look at cases involving Brits who have sacrificed thousands of pounds in the name of love, only to learn it was all a con.

Fake politician

As revealed in the Daily Star Sunday yesterday, British woman Sharon Bulmer was swindled out of £80k in a ruthless scam.

The scammer used Facebook to start chatting to Bulmer – who went on to end her relationship with her partner of 29 years to start a fresh romance.

He called himself Murphy Townsend and he used photos of a foreign defence minister in Latvia.

Sharon, 51, from Manchester, said: “He said he was lonely, he’s serving in Syria, his wife had passed away and he wanted someone to speak to.”

She added: “Murphy was sweet. I felt loved in a way – I felt cared for.”

Eventually the swindler began asking for money and blinded by love, Murphy agreed.

She is now in £37,000 of debt after she sent him a total of 80,000.

Fake Paul Hollywood

Lesley Poole lost £160,000 of her savings after agreeing to marry a “better looking” version of Paul Hollywood – only to be swindled.

But by the time she realised the romance was fake – she had already given up ownership of her home.

Similar to Sharon, Lesley was also contacted via Facebook.

The 65-year-old from Essex is now living month to month after splashing her savings on a total stranger.

She told the Daily Star last October: “Being catfished left me devastated and it absolutely broke my heart.

“Sometimes I sent him £3,000 for machinery, £800 for his daughter’s broken leg to be fixed, £1,200 for a heated suit because it was very cold where he was.

“I say this and can’t actually believe how bloody stupid I was.”

Sorry, Nan

Single mum Julie Price was so desperate to meet her new lover that she sold her car, TV and her nan’s engagement ring to pay for his flights.

Unsurprisingly the man of her dreams was a fraudster who targets women via social media.

He used the photos of real-life US serviceman Jonathan Ramos to attract attention.

And Julie, 35, from Portsmouth, was eventually left stranded at the airport and £5,000 out of pocket after the stranger broke her heart.

She told the Daily Star: “Looking back on it, I feel stupid. But I had just come out of a long-term relationship and my dad had died just five months before he first messaged me.

“He knew I was vulnerable and that’s how he got me.”

Kidnap ransom


Rachel Elwell lost her entire life savings after using credit cards, loans and her sister’s money for a conman who fabricated his own kidnapping.

The scammer told Rachel he would remain captured until he could pay back Russian loan sharks.

Desperate, and despite warnings from her bank Santander, Rachel gave away a total of £133,000.

Rachel was eventually left feeling “suicidal” after realising it was all a sophisticated money-driven lie.

Afterwards she said: “We had a lot in common. Both had dogs, liked walking, dancing and travelling.

"Our conversations felt honest and open and we planned to meet when Covid restrictions eased."

Meanwhile a Santander spokesperson added: “We have the utmost sympathy for Ms Elwell and all those who fall victim to the criminals who carry out these scams.

"Unfortunately, despite repeatedly warning her of the dangers of transferring money to someone she hadn’t met and directly raising our concerns that this was a scam with Ms Elwell and the police, she confirmed she wanted to proceed with the payments."

Tinder Swindler

Although not British, Cecile Fjellhoy is based in the UK and that’s where she was when the infamous Simon Leviev targeted her.

Her experience with Leviev started with a Tinder match but ended with her checking into a psychiatric facility and being almost £200,000 in debt.

And the Norwegian – who played a big part in the Netflix show – spoke about the love rat on This Morning.

Responding to host Phillip Schofield asking her about being victim-blamed, she said: “I just don't get it, we're being called gold-diggers and greedy but I don't know how gold-diggers would give out over £200,000 to someone.

"I just tried to save someone, if people don't believe that, it's up to them."

Kidnap horror

Ruth Tunnicliffe was told by police she “nearly ended up in a body bag” after falling for a fraudster who allegedly kidnapped her overseas before stealing her passport.

She was living in Cornwall when she claims a violent criminal duped her out of £20,000 after promising her a business opportunity.

The mum-of-three was going through a divorce when alleged fraudster Peter McMahon targeted her online in 2010.

She eventually flew to Nashville to visit him and said: “To start with we were head over heels. It was so romantic.

"He was fun, he was very very popular and everywhere we went people seemed to know him and he would introduce me as his fiancé.”

The pair “lived it up” on her credit card travelling across the USA before her passport went missing, leaving her trapped.

She said McMahon soon became violent with her before she managed to escape.

Ruth said the fraudster tried to call her once she returned to the UK and said the last thing he said to her was: "You'll never get your money back you stupid English f**k."

She added: "He knew that I was divorced, he knew that I was vulnerable and he knew that I was probably low.”

Peter McMahon's whereabouts remains unknown.

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