Tuesday 22 February 2022

Streaming on Netflix - Rod Bishop uncovers INVENTING ANNA (Shonda Rhimes, USA, 2022) and THE TINDER SWINDLER (Felicity Morris, United Kingdom, 2022)

Somewhere in the more than ten hours that make up the nine episodes of Inventing Anna,a millennial talks about scamming banks, art galleries, investors and close friends as “the new normal”. Bit like that other millennial new normal - sexually explicit selfies posted to others as “it’s what we do, so get over it”.

Tinder Swindler Simon Leviev enjoyed a luxury lifestyle
paid for by his victims – and they want it back.

In The Tinder Swindler, the professional Israeli millennial scammer Simon Leviev (aka Shimon Hayut) would certainly agree as he jets from country to country in a private plane, running multiple parallel love affairs with gullible millennial women he meets on Tinder, while pretending the dangers of his diamond-trading business have such ‘security’ issues he cannot temporarily access his own money, so could you lend me some? $10 million all up.

Both the Russian Anna Delvey/aka the Russian-German Anna Sorokin and Simon Leviev hide their scamming in plain sight. Leviev’s whole shtick depends on Tinder and after sleeping with his women and having occasional meals in restaurants, the rest are all texts, emails, voice mails, mobile phone videos, Facetime, Instagram and, of course, money transfers.

Delvey is just as adept at face-to-face exchanges with her New York targets - investment lawyers and real estate entrepreneurs - as she is with social media. Her face-to-face exchanges with her friends are less convincing the longer they go on, particularly when she embezzles $62,000 on one friend’s AMEX card. Delvey pleads she is too busy to deal with such trivia. Her friends think she is a liar, but they are slow to act. The intervention they eventually plan collapses in shouted recriminations and Delvey runs from the restaurant into a waiting NYC taxi.

Julia Garner, Inventing Anna

Although Inventing Anna is open to the usual criticism a dramatic version of Delvey’s life can attract,The Tinder Swindler is a documentary strengthened by Leviev’s indulgence at being photographed, filmed and voice recorded along with his copious texts and emails. At times, it’s hard to believe the footage we see, mostly recorded on mobile phones, is real. Or perhaps just another scam.

The big difference between Delvey and Leviev is the use of romantic love as the basis of the scam. Leviev uses it entirely for bait, while Delvey - who seems completely uninterested in romance - plays hard with the gender card to her corporate targets and soft on the “trust” and “support” she expects of her friends. Both are equally effective.

But perhaps the biggest difference is charisma. Anna Delvey has it in spades. Although Simon Leviev’s female victims may think otherwise, the Israeli scammer comes out of The Tinder Swindler not only lacking any charisma, but any scamming creativity. His text messages, for instance, are cut-and-pasted from one victim for use on the next. Cut-and-paste seems to be his entire modus operandi actually. And who needs charisma anyway when there’s a private jet, continuous flights all over Europe, chauffeured limousines, luxury hotels, expensive meals and compliant women ready to fork up $10 million for it all? 

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