New York Life | May 30, 2022

Lessons from Netflix: Fraud in the digital age.


Recent Netflix hit shows “The Tinder Swindler” and “Inventing Anna” have captured the nation’s attention – and it’s easy to see why. According to the FBI, last year, Americans were cheated out of $1 billion as a result of romance fraud. There was a 113 percent rise in reports of identity theft during the pandemic, and credit card fraud rose by 44.7 percent.2

Inventing Anna dramatizes the real-life story of Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin), who used a combination of deception, theft, social media, and gaslighting techniques to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors, hotels and friends--while posing as a supposed New York City socialite.

The Tinder Swindler documents the experiences of three women-- victims of Simon Leviev (real name Shimon Hayut), who used dating apps to romantically deceive and manipulate his targets. The victims, thought to be just three among many, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of an overall scam worth an estimated $10 million. 

Financial criminals are taking advantage of our increasingly digital world to commit their crimes. And some of them are wearing Gucci or Chanel while they do it. 

While avoiding phishing emails, clicking unverified links, and maintaining secure passwords are all still vital considerations when it comes to protecting yourself online, some of today’s most successful financial scammers are using technology to manipulate their victims emotionally.  

So, what lessons can we learn from these hit shows about protecting ourselves against this new kind of fraud in the digital age?

Social media

Social media isn’t always what it seems. Anna Delvey had 40,000 Instagram followers and her well-followed account is part of the reason why one of her “friends”--victim Rachel DeLoache Williams--believed Anna’s projected status and false backstory. 

Likewise, Shimon Leviev lured his victims in with his 200k+ Instagram followers, giving off a perception of wealth and fame through images depicting an ultra-luxurious lifestyle. 

In both instances, their social media presence was deliberately curated to legitimize a lie. 

So, whether you’re using social media to validate a new business partner, romantic interest, or employer, be sure to remember that a well-followed profile doesn’t necessarily make somebody trustworthy. Dig a little deeper where possible, and make sure you never hand over any money to somebody you don’t know well, regardless of how many likes their latest post receives.

Dating apps 

Our phones are full of them. From Tinder to Bumble, Hinge to Match, apps define dating in our digital age. But, in the case of The Tinder Swindler, and other similar stories, it is always important to keep yourself safe while using these platforms.

Romance fraud relies on a combination of manipulation and deception, and romantic feelings can leave us financially vulnerable.

Whatever the situation, when it comes to meeting a stranger on a dating app, try and keep money out of the equation. Split costs 50/50 where possible and consider keeping specific personal financial details private. Does your date need to know how much you earn, or how much you’re worth right away? Giving away too much can make you a desirable target, or help a criminal conduct a successful scam–-so keep your cards close to your chest at first.

Mobile banking apps

Convenient, efficient, immediate--for many of us, it is hard to imagine financial life before mobile banking. Whether you’re using a mobile payment app , such as Chime or Venmo, or taking advantage of a traditional bank’s mobile app, sending money to friends has never been easier or quicker. 

But, when it comes to protecting your finances, it's important to bear a few things in mind. Whether you’re looking to help a friend, colleague, or stranger,  lending someone money is a decision worth thinking about. Will repayments affect a valued friendship? Could the loan have an impact on a relationship at work? Is this person reliable and trustworthy? Just because you can send money in a matter of seconds, doesn’t mean you should. 

Anna Delvey was a “wire transfer” mastermind, convincing hotels money was on the way, persuading global banks to transfer capital into her accounts, and generally using our newly digital relationship to money to her advantage. Don’t let someone take advantage of you financially with a promise of a transfer that never arrives.

Crypto, stocks, investments.

From digital access to the stock market through mobile phone applications, to the rise in cryptocurrency, never has financial investment been so available to the wider public. And yet, alongside the fantastic opportunities accessible investment can bring to many, there is also some risk.

Anna Delvey’s story revolves around her attempts to finance an enormous art gallery and social club in New York City. More than one top financial advisor and bank fell for Delvey’s pitch, which was based on pretend funds and false claims.

The lesson? We must all be wary of being pulled into an investment opportunity without doing the proper research. How many times have we heard the simple rule: “if it seems to be good to be true, it probably is.”

So whether you’re being asked by an acquaintance to invest in a new business venture, or whether someone is pitching what seems like a great way to make some fast money, take a breath first. In the digital age, technology allows us to invest in a heartbeat; unfortunately, that means we are far more likely to become victims of fraud.

1“Americans lost $1bn to Tinder-Swindler style romance cons last year, FBI says”, The Guardian, 2022

2“Identity Theft and Credit Card Statistics”, Lyle Daly, 2021.


Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.

Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937