“Unbelievable” I said to my friend as we sat for a coffee, “Simon Leviev, the tinder swindler fraudster, has more than 100K followers on Instagram”. “Not anymore” she answered, “His account got hacked and I just followed his new one to see how the story develops”. She then showed me an Instagram story he just posted from his helicopter, and I immediately knew – something is wrong here, and it’s not the coffee.
64 accounts under the name Simon Leviev at the time of writing this article, not including those I could not find. Clearly – all of them but one must be fake, but which one is the real Simon Leviev Instagram account? And why would people waste their time on creating all of these fake accounts?
I decided to write this article in order to shed some light on the phenomena. It is what I do for a living, I run software companies that focus on following trends in order to generate business growth.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t teach people how to build fake accounts and scam people. I rather focus on legitimate ways to make money online, like how to start dropshipping or how to grow organically on Instagram.
The content I create is usually directly related to the products that my software company is building, and these business models I talk about all depend on the understanding of the mechanism of viral trends.
But the familiarity with these legitimate ways to generate income online keeps exposing me also to the darker sides of this industry. I can’t sit and watch it happen in front of my eyes and do nothing. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to help you understand what is happening and what can you, and the people you care about, do in order to avoid getting scammed and be fed with misinformation.
Did Simon Leviev’s Instagram account get hacked?
Right after Netflix’s Tinder Swindler aired Simon Leviev’s account disappeared from Instagram. The reason for the account’s disappearance is unknown. But I still want to speculate as to what happened in order to calm down the curiosity, which is being misused against people as you’re reading those lines.
One option as to what really happened is that Instagram decided to deactivate the account due to a misuse of the community guidelines of the platform. What exactly did Simon do or what were the exact community guidelines that were misused – we’ll never know. This is the kind of information that for security purposes Instagram doesn’t expose, and it’s for our own good.
On Instagram marketing communities you see it happening all the time, and the reason is rarely known even to the account owners themselves.
Simon himself, as I am about to show, does not appear to be an internet genius, let alone an Instagram expert, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another option is that his password actually got cracked, though in my opinion it’s less likely it is definitely an option.
If it did get hacked, it shouldn’t have been a problem for the Instagram security team to figure it out and take down the account. Actually, it probably happened automatically without any human interaction, but I don’t really know how their security team works, that’s kind of the idea behind security teams, isn’t it?
Supposedly, Simon should be able to retrieve his official account by contacting the Instagram security team and verifying his real identity. But who is Simon Leviev? Is it Shimon Hayut? Mordechai Nisim Tapiro? Michael Bilton? Avraham Levy? This person used all of these names throughout the years together with an endless stream of fake documents, who’s going to believe him even if he tries?
When you look at the list of fake accounts you see all kinds of variations using all of the names he used over the years. By the way, as an Israeli myself I would probably refer to him as Shimon, also pronounced sometimes as Shimeon, which is a Hebrew name like mine.
Which account is the real Simon Leviev?
A few days after the official account shut down, a video of Simon showed up. In the video he says “Good morning everybody, my previous Instagram got hacked, this is my new Instagram account Simon dot Leviev one. All the other accounts are not mine, I have nothing to do with them.”. Finally we know which account is the real Simon Leviev account, right? Well… Not so fast.
Quickly after this video was released on one of the accounts, supposedly the real account, many accounts started popping up being called Simon Leviev One
The video where Simon is talking about his new account was, obviously, shared on all of them immediately after, making it impossible to tell the real one. But its only only the “Simon Leviev One” accounts that shared it – it got shared on every single Simon Leviev account.
What the scammers did was to cut the video right before he says “Simon Leviev One” making everyone that watches the video think that he is talking about the account they’re looking at right now.
You can’t track which account is the actual real one by trying to figure out the video posting time, because they keep posting the video every 24 hours again and again. Even if the real account put a sticker with it’s name – other accounts just download the video and override the text. Even if Simon will shoot a video holding a sign with the name of the account, they will use a video editor and change it. I just don’t trust any of them.
But the most important part about the Tinder Swindler Instagram accounts is not to figure out who the real account is. It is to understand why there are so many accounts, why you should be aware of them and what you can do to help fight back the scammers.
Why are there so many accounts of Simon Leviev?
In order to scam you. I want to show you a couple of techniques the fake account operators use to make money off of the virality peak of The TInder Swindler show on Netflix and the fact that the official account disappeared. And like many things in life, it’s all about money.
In order for you to understand the financial potential of the Tinder Swindler trend, we need a benchmark. According to Statista Nike’s footwear sales accounted for 66% of the company’s revenue in 2021 which sums at 18.4 Billion dollars.
I compared the search volume of the words “Nike shoes” with the “Simon Leviev” using Google Trends, it’s a tool by Google themselves that helps in exploring search trends around the world. Look what happened in the past few days.
The trend will pass sometime soon, maybe by the time you read this it’s already mostly over, these types of trends are typically short-term and one-time. They differ from seasonal trends, I discuss further in depth the differences in the first section of the marketing calendar article.
But even if it only lasts one week, a simple calculation shows how much it could potentially be worth. Let’s use again Nike as a benchmark, divide the $18.4B by 52 (the number of weeks in a year), we’re left with “only” 353 Million dollars.
Obviously, Simon is not a shoe brand, and people that search for him don’t have the same intent as people who search for shoes. When you search for shoes you usually intend to buy them, but those who search for Simon are mainly interested in information – the number is lower, but there is still tons of financial potential in it.
We get a rare peek of the actual numbers of the scammers. One of the amazing things about this identity fraud anomaly is that the scammers are happily showing off their numbers. After all, it is an integral part of the lifestyle of Simon Leviev character.
The amount of traffic around this topic is shocking, 50 thousand views per story for an Instagram account that was created only a few days ago.
So even though the financial potential for hackers and scammers is lower compared to the one of Nike shoes, the scammers don’t waste a second trying to monetize it. How do the scammers turn all of this traffic into money? My research revealed a few techniques
The current Simon Leviev scams on Instagram
Scam #1: Fake Gofund. me campaigns
Gofund. me is a platform for crowdfunding. You create a campaign and ask your friends and followers to chip in and help you fund a specific cause. Gofund.me is a marketplace and therefore, anyone can open a fundraising campaign and ask anyone to contribute using a unique link.
Most of the campaigns on the platform are legit. Actually, there is a very much real campaign called the Official Help the victims of the Tinder Swindler. The campaign is backed by the Gofund. me team in collaboration with the victims that appear in the documentary movie.
But just like every other marketplace, it’s possible (and frankly quite simple) for a scammer to create a fake support campaign and try to raise money to their own pocket.
For example, one of the campaigns is called “Simon Leviev Fundraiser”, it was created by a username called “Simon Leviv” (noticed the missing letter?).
Who would be willing to support the counter claims and help Simon fight for “his truth”? I don’t know, but his videos keep on promising that he will share his side of the story publically. Should there be those who are willing to help him fight back, the scammers will be ready to collect their money.
One of the “Simon Leviev One” accounts made sure to put a link to the Simon Leviev Fundraiser in its bio
Actually, when you search for “Simon Leviev” in the Gofund. me website, other than the actual fundraiser for the victims a few suspicious fundraisers show up. One of them, at the top right corner, is called “Constructions of schools”. Notice that it was created by another username, this time a user that is actually called “Simon Leviev”.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the schools campaign will be used by scammers that claim that he is trying to “pay back to society” by fundraising for schools. I just don’t trust it, and neither should you.
Scam #2: Fake victim support payback campaigns
One of the Simon Leviev accounts with over 13K followers keeps praising people that donated to the official victims fundraising campaign on Gofund. me. Supposedly a beautiful gesture, isn’t it? Not at all.
The account is constantly sharing stories with screenshots of people who donated to the victims Gofund. me campaign. It tags these people in the posts and says things like “pay back to this wonderful girl… Follow @***** to pay back her courage”.
I don’t trust it. Some of them might be actual normal people who donated and then shared it in their personal Instagram stories, which was then reposted by the fake account. but some of them might be planted by the scammer in order to lure people into “paying back” the scammer while believing you support back those who contributed to the actual victims campaign.
Scam #4: Direct PayPal payments
This account took a direct approach, with a direct payment link in the bio for PayPal transactions.
I couldn’t find, yet, direct requests for transactions in the profile’s stories or posts. But I believe that its because the scammers that created it are waiting for the account to gain a bit more following. I checked the account twice, in a few hours it gained hundreds of new followers.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts asking people to raise funds for a purpose. Either to support Simon, the victims or whatever other reason that will convince people to send the money directly via Paypal. Money, which is more likely to end up in the hands of a terror organization rather than in the hands of the victims or schools.
Scam #4 Promoting NFTs
Probably the most sophisticated of all methods is this one. It is practiced by one of the accounts that reached tens of thousands of followers within its first 3 days (the time of writing this blog post). We’re talking about over 10 thousand followers a day, are you starting to see the financial potential of this viral trend?
The scammer that created this account making sure to seem to be one of the most reliable accounts by thinking well on how Simon would possibly act. Tagging his current girlfriend in many of the posts, being more casual and not asking anyone to send money anywhere.
Instead, this account just continues to share pictures and videos that show off the lifestyle of Simon, but with one tiny addition. Business recommendations of what NFTs to invest it.
Basically, the idea behind this account is to drive the traffic forward to somewhere else that is supposedly legit. Once the followers click on the recommended NFT they go to another account, a legit business for selling NFTs which has nothing to do with Simon.
I have no claims against Instagram, Gofund.me, Paypal, the creators of the NFTs, the platforms that sell NFTs or any system that is being used by scammers who take advantage of the virality peak. Honestly, these things go so viral so quickly, get bombarded with such an incredible load of misinformation and end up so quickly, that it’s almost impossible to track all of the steps of all of the scammers.
Having said that, we have our ammunition too. There are ways to negatively impact the success of these scams, I was able to think of three and I invite you to share more of them in the comments section.
3 Ways to avoid the Simon Leviev scams (and fight back!)
1. Don’t trust too quickly
We are so used to just Swipe to the next one. From binging on Netflix to scrolling on social media and even when we choose a potential date on Tinder. How often are we exposed then to misinformation?
Don’t trust so quickly. What I refer to is not to mistrust people that you meet on the apps, who could potentially be fraudsters. What I claim is that when you read something online and you recognize that it triggers you emotionally, try to stop and breathe first.
I see it all the time in the “make money online” industry, how dreams are being sold by showing off a dream-like lifestyle.
Remember, before you put your money into anything, take a moment to do a bit further research, trust it a bit less. Real opportunities – both to make money as well as to make social impact – takes time and effort. I urge you to donate to the real fundraising campaign for the victims, you have done your research and I vouch that it is legit.
I just say – do your research every time you are being asked to donate, especially when its done online. You will end up putting your money to better causes, you will become more involved by having more knowledge about the cause you donate to and you will avoid putting money in the wrong hands.
It’s not realistic to expect from companies like Instagram to catch so many of these scammers. You have no idea to what lengths these people go to make their activity look authentic.
But we can help, by reporting these accounts we trigger the security systems of Instagram that in turn makes it harder for the scammers to stay active.
You see, the “game” is not to stop the scammers from being able to create these accounts, it’s just to make it so hard for them so their financial incentive wouldn’t worth it anymore, to dry them out.
We can’t stop people from attempting to take advantage from such viral phenomenon, but we can shout out together the message that you just can’t reliably follow any of the Simon Leviev accounts on Instagram, and that people should be aware of it. By doing it we cut the flow of traffic these accounts and we cut the conversion rate, meaning less people that already follow it will be willing to take any action suggested by the accounts.
When we reduce the financial potential for the scammers, we dry their well and force them to stop naturally.
It is because I’ve built my businesses based on the understanding of the mechanism of virality of content that I feel the responsibility to do the research and share its results with you.
This professional community I am a part of is often referred to as “growth hackers”. I wrote a piece on what is social media growth hacking that explains it further but I just want to make one thing clear.
While we use the term “hacking” to describe our efforts, these aren’t the shady scams I’ve mentioned above. Growth hacks are legitimate and valuable methods that companies uses all over the world to generate growth.
If you find more scams that you think I should add to the article please comment below, and please consider sharing this article with your friends and family to fight back the scammers by stopping their flow of traffic.