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The Tinder Swindler: One Victim’s Story

Ayleen Charlotte talks about her experience with the Tinder Swindler.

There is lots of advice out there about how to spot online dating scams and romance scams. You’re probably familiar with a few of the red flags, such as rushing the relationship, asking you to send money through a method that’s hard to reverse, and always having an excuse for why they can’t visit in person. But not every scammer plays by those rules. Some are willing to invest years of effort to gain your trust and steal as much of your money as possible. That was the case with the Tinder Swindler.

See The Tinder Swindler with Ayleen Charlotte for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.

Ayleen Charlotte is one of three women featured in the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler. After being victimized by the elaborate scheme of the romance scammer nicknamed “the Tinder Swindler,” she had to make a choice between victimhood and empowerment. She decided not just to tell her story, but also to take control of her own life by making her dream of entrepreneurship come true.

Why Ayleen Chose the Documentary

News attention turned towards the Tinder Swindler because of an article in a Norwegian newspaper. The article told the story of two other victims, Pernilla and Cecilie. An agent in the United States came across the story and decided he wanted to make a documentary about it. Pernilla and Cecilie had already agreed to participate, but he wanted Ayleen involved as well. It was partly because she had a role in his arrest, but also because swindled the Tinder Swindler and he thought that would make a great ending for the documentary.

Ayleen considered the idea for a few months. But eventually she chose to participate, for three reasons. First, she wanted to put his face out there. If everyone knew who he was and what he did, he wouldn’t be able to scam anyone else. Second, she wanted to show the police that they needed to put more effort into bringing him to justice. He didn’t just target women, but also stole from men, families, and companies. And third, she wanted to help people in the same position. She knows firsthand how devastating it can be to be caught in a scam, and she wanted to show victims that it is possible to take your life back afterwards.

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 in your own hands again if you stay strong.

Ayleen Charlotte

The Tinder Swindler’s Swindle

Ayleen met the Tinder Swindler on Tinder five years ago. For the first few months, they had a nice relationship. They saw each other often. He claimed he worked for Leviev, a diamond company that his father owned. He also lived a lavish lifestyle. Ayleen traveled a lot for work, and he would take private jets to wherever she was just to see her. He gave her lavish gifts. He wore luxury clothes, drove luxury cars, and always traveled with his “team” around him. It fit with his story of working in the diamond industry. All indications were that everything he was saying about himself was true.

After seven months, he told her that he had enemies. There are a lot of enemies in the diamond industry, he claimed, and they were targeting him. He needed to lay low for a bit. So he moved in with Ayleen. Because he was trying to hide, he asked to use her money and credit cards so it couldn’t be traced to him. That’s when it started. She gave him money because she trusted him. She expected he would pay her back.

He sent her a check to repay the money he “borrowed” from her, and there was always a problem. He told a very believable story about it, too. It was a large amount, so it was possible that the bank thought it was suspicious and didn’t accept it. When the money didn’t arrive, he sent another check. Ayleen had already waited over two months at this point. And she was still giving him money because she believed the money he sent would arrive eventually. She took out personal loans to keep funding his lifestyle. But he kept pushing her for more. After a few months, she realized this wasn’t right.

Trustworthy … At First

It’s easy to assume that Ayleen was naive to trust him and give him money. But in fact, the Tinder Swindler had spent the time to build a foundation of trust before he started to scam her. At the beginning, he did give her money to repay what she spent on him. She paid his phone bill, for example, but he always paid her back. It was an incremental trust. He proved himself trustworthy with small things to lay the foundation to ask for even more. She believed she could safely loan more money to him because he’d always paid her back in the past.

The Tinder Swindler spent time to build trust and convince Ayleen he would pay her back before he started his scam.

In addition, it took him seven months to ask for money. Some people watching the documentary think that she swiped right on Tinder and two days later he asked her for $140,000 and she gave it to him. But that’s not the real story. He spent the time to build up a foundation of trust before taking advantage of that trust.

It took him over seven months to ask me for money. In a seven- or eight-month relationship, you are trusting that person.

Ayleen Charlotte

Most scammers just want a quick score. But some are willing to take years to gain their victim’s trust. Once the victim trusts them, they can take even more than they could have otherwise. The Tinder Swindler made Ayleen feel like a princess in the beginning. He traveled to see her wherever she was just because he wanted to see her. It made her feel special because he was coming to her, not the other way around. And unlike many romance scammers, she really met him in person. It made it easier for her to trust him.

When the Story Got Crazy

The Tinder Swindler’s story was that he had enemies because of his work and they were after him. Where the story really got crazy was when he claimed they caught up to him. He claimed that he’d been caught and beaten and his bodyguard had been beaten as well. Two days after the incident, he showed up at Ayleen’s workplace with cuts on his hands and face. Ayleen doesn’t know if he did it to himself or there was another reason, but it made the whole story seem very real. It was the reason she let him move in with her and start using her money to hide from those enemies.

He reused this story with other victims, too. Ayleen heard this story seven months after they met, in the summer of 2018. He used the same story with Cecilie in March of 2018 and with Pernilla in November of the same year. Telling the same story over and over again, he convinced people that his enemies were catching up and he needed help. He asked for money, but at that point he had already gained their trust. They were willing to help him out of this situation that seemed life-threatening.

Realizing It Was a Scam

After a few months of living together and giving him money, Ayleen already had a feeling that something wasn’t right. The story felt harder and harder to believe. Eventually, she was waiting for him to come to her and ask for money instead of giving it. She even told him several times that she couldn’t give him any more money because she was broke.

On February 16, 2019, Ayleen and the Tinder Swindler were together in Prague. He dropped her off at the airport for her return flight, and she was browsing her phone while she waited. Then she saw his face on her feed. It was the article about Cecilie and Pernilla and how the Tinder Swindler scammed them. Ayleen doesn’t know why or how the article ended up on her feed, but it was a wake-up call. She knew in that moment that she had been defrauded.

When he found out about the article, he claimed it was a fake. His enemies had created it to spread lies about him, he said, and Cecilie and Pernilla had been paid by them. But Ayleen immediately trusted the article. What Cecilie and Pernilla described had many similarities to what she was going through. He kept trying to convince Ayleen to give him money. But the article had been a wake-up call, and Ayleen knew she had to do something.

Swindling the Tinder Swindler

At this point, Ayleen was in a lot of debt. She thought she needed to get some of the money back. Obviously she wasn’t going to get the Tinder Swindler to send her money directly. And she was talking to the police, but she doubted she would get anything back if he was arrested, either. So she decided to get creative.

He was still asking for more money. She told him she didn’t have any more money to give, but she knew he had a lot of designer clothes. She offered to take some of his expensive designer clothes, sell them, and then send him the money. He didn’t realize she believed the article, and it sounded like a good plan to him. He bought her a ticket to Prague.

Ayleen flew to Prague and pretended to still be his girlfriend for two days. She still doesn’t know how she did it, but she did. Then she picked up three big suitcases of designer clothing and got back on the plane. Her only goal was to get home with those suitcases, because she knew once she did, she never had to see him again.

Though it was satisfying to swindle the Tinder Swindler, she knew what she took from him was paid for with her money. She used to work in high-end fashion and knew the clothes he sent were the latest collection. She had given him so much money, and he had bought all of it with her money. Out of everything she got, she kept a pair of sunglasses and a few other things as souvenirs, but most of it she sold. Even those small things she might sell later, once he’s behind bars.

Red Flags in Retrospect

Ayleen knew something wasn’t right, but she didn’t realize the Tinder Swindler was scamming her until she read the article. But looking back, there were some warning signs that all he really wanted was to steal her money.

No Time to Consider

When the Tinder Swindler asked for money, he pushed her. He didn’t give her any time to think rationally about it. If she were to ask a family member or friend for money, she would let them think about it for a week or two. That’s the normal and polite way to ask for money. But with him, he didn’t want to give her time to think about it.

Love and Manipulation

Every time he needed money, he used both excessive love and emotional manipulation. He would say that if she didn’t give him money, he would be murdered and it would be her fault. But he was also incredibly sweet and loving. The documentary caught voice memos from him asking for money. He would say things like, “Ayleen, you are the only person who can help me. Please. I love you so much and I know you love me.” If being sweet and loving didn’t work, he would quickly resort to manipulation and accuse her of letting him be murdered or screwing up his life. He tried to use her love and trust to manipulate her into giving him money.

Fear and Threats

The Tinder Swindler pressured Ayleen to help him, but he also tried to make her fear for her own life. He told her she was in danger because his enemies knew where she lived, worked, and traveled, and where her family lived. Ayleen started to feel like it was a life-or-death matter. Not only did she not want to see her boyfriend die, she didn’t want herself or her family to be harmed, either.

In a way, he was threatening not only me, but also my family and the people visiting my house if I didn’t give him any money.

Ayleen Charlotte
The Tinder Swindler tried everything, including manipulation and threats, to convince his victims to give him money.

Ayleen’s Best Advice to Avoid Scams

The best advice that Ayleen has to give is simple. If someone asks you for money and tries to pressure you into giving it right away, stop. Step away, shut down your phone, and think about it for a few days. Avoid the pressure and think clearly about it so you can determine if it’s a scam.

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 as much trouble as I was in.

Ayleen Charlotte

The normal way to ask family or friends for money is to give them time to think about it. But that’s exactly what scammers don’t do. They don’t want to give you time to realize it’s a scam, so they keep hassling you until you say yes.

The Tinder Swindler is Still Free

The Tinder Swindler started running scams when he was a teenager. He’s had a lot of victims over the years. And he hasn’t just scammed women. He’s also targeted men, charities, and companies. One company in the UK was swindled for over a million pounds. He is very good at running scams, hurting people, and making their lives miserable. Ayleen doesn’t think it’s about the money, because he mostly spends it on frivolous things. She thinks that he doesn’t have a lot of skills and wouldn’t be able to work in a restaurant or a shop. Scamming is the only thing he’s capable of doing, and he’ll keep doing it until he’s caught.

The Tinder Swindler is currently in Israel living his life. Ayleen believes that karma will get him one day, but it may take a while. The documentary and article have definitely slowed down his ability to scam people, though. A lot of people know his face now and know what he’s capable of. But he’s a smooth talker, and she bets he’s still making more victims.

One of the reasons Ayleen participated in the documentary project was because she thinks the police should work to put him behind bars, where he belongs. There’s a lot of proof of his crimes. He sent voice notes, fake checks, and videos that can be used as proof. But there are so many victims that it’s slowed the case down. If the police need to interview them all, it could take a while.

How the Tinder Swindler Impacted Ayleen’s Life

Ayleen hasn’t let her encounter with the Tinder Swindler affect her ability to trust or connect with other people. It happened in the past, and it’s over now. She feels that if she refuses to trust others, it would just make her life even harder. She has already experienced the worst part of the situation. It can only get better from here. She still has trust and still believes. And she tries not to let this one story have too much impact on her future.

If I still keep on thinking “I cannot trust him,” or “I cannot trust her,” then it would make my life even more miserable.

Ayleen Charlotte

Ayleen’s Advice to Scam Victims

If you have been a victim of a scam, Ayleen encourages you not to be afraid to talk about it. You will get much more support if you talk about it than if you don’t. People will know better how to react to you if you share your story. And in a way, it can be therapeutic to share. It’s a big step to take, but Ayleen encourages you to do it because it will only make your life better.

In addition, sharing your story takes back your power and puts your life in your own hands again. That’s the most important thing you need to heal from the situation. You need to take control of your own life again after this has happened to you.

People share their stories on Ayleen’s Instagram sometimes. She doesn’t always have time to respond, but she tries to. It’s something she is open to because it’s important to help each other, as well. It’s a place where you can not just commiserate, but you can also not feel judged. You can hear from other people who have gone through what you’ve gone through and can tell you honestly that you will get through it.

You can watch the full documentary The Tinder Swindler on Netflix. You can also connect with Ayleen on Instagram.

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