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How to protect yourself from being swindled via online dating

'If it seems too good to be true, it probably is'

Shimon Hayut allegedly met women on Tinder before swindling them for millions of dollars after catfishing them into believing his name was 'Simon Leviev'.
Shimon Hayut allegedly met women on Tinder before swindling them for millions of dollars after catfishing them into believing his name was 'Simon Leviev'.
Image: Instagram

Since Netflix premiered its hit documentary Tinder Swindler there has been huge debate and interest around the risks of dating in the modern world.

While the hit documentary served as an eye-opener to the harsh realities of online dating, it has also proven how easy it is to get swindled by the likes of Simon Leviev without even noticing.

Even though longing for love and the need for a partner can leave many people gullible to fall for lies and scams, Sowetan has come up with points to protect yourself from being swindled on a dating app.   

Here are the warning signs according to psychiatrist Prof Renata Schoeman, the head of the MBA Health Care Leadership programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB):

  • Psychopaths can disengage and detach themselves from relationships just as quickly as they attached themselves in the first place. Due to their inability to truly connect with people, they will abruptly, coldly and ruthlessly drop anyone if they are not useful any more;
  • Superficial charm;
  • False, inflated sense of self, driven by their disproportional ego;
  • Entitlement; 
  • A need to impress you or those they meet. Look out for patterns of steering or starting conversations that would positively influence your opinion of them;
  • Incapacity to love or show remorse;
  • Excessive impulsivity and at times reckless behaviour;
  • Sudden rages when you cross them or things don’t go their way, however, they display cool, calculated calmness in times when other people might be under stress;
  • Constant conversations about their own achievements and good fortune, with a preference to discussions that centre on the materialistic. Most people have holistic conversations – something they read about their family or friends or their journey in life;
  • Patterns of calculated manipulation of people or situations in order for their own benefit;
  • Look out for body language – we all mimic the behaviour in that if someone, for example, speaks softly you will too. Psychopaths lack empathy so they will be oblivious to signs like these and will not adjust to the situation;
  • Unstable or lack of relationships. Psychopaths are not able to maintain friendships, don’t have good ties with their families and have no mutually appreciative long-term connections. Their relationships are shallow and purely for the short term to reach their self-serving goal; and
  • Psychopaths would rarely share their journey, goals or dreams with you. They have a calculated plan and want to make sure you are not privy to this information in case you become suspicious or worse, you steal their idea.

So how do you safeguard yourself?

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is;
  • In romantic relationships, keep some mystery about yourself and refrain from sharing too much, too soon;
  • Don’t move too fast in a relationship – even if he has a jet, take your time before joining him on a trip;
  • Trust your gut – if you feel that you are being manipulated, you probably are;
  • Seek out the opinion of your friends and family, and in the office context, your colleagues or a mentor. They can be objective and offer perspective to help you stay true to yourself;
  • Romance can literally sweep one off one’s feet! But try to stay level-headed, maintain your independence and don’t attach yourself to this person’s life too quickly;
  • If you suspect anything untoward, keep a record of all communications; and
  • Never part with your personal information or money at the start of a new relationship. One can offer support without putting yourself at risk.

Schoeman adds it’s enormously difficult to catch a psychopath in the act. She believes there are pathological liars who purposefully deceive people to conceal their modus operandi.

“They strategically plan their deceitful stories and use their superficial charm to get one addicted, leaving you doubting your valid suspicions and ending up as the victim.”  

Schoeman points out that psychopaths are ruthless when pursuing something that they want, without any concern for those around them. “They are very status-conscious and their behaviour involves extreme egocentricity, severe lack of empathy for the feelings of others and a willingness to engage in immoral behaviour for short-term gains, exploiting others while doing so. 

“Many will claim that something similar could never happen to them, yet cases such as these are not as uncommon as we think. Psychopathic behaviour is also not only reserved for romantic encounters, psychopaths stalk office corridors too, with lasting mental health impacts on their victims.

“The manipulation, deception, inflated self-opinion and back-stabbing of the corporate psychopath can cause work-related depression, anxiety disorders, burnout and physical illnesses, conditions which cost the SA economy more than R40bn annually,” Schoeman said.

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