The film “The Tinder Scammer” tells the story of a boy who flees his country and orchestrates a huge scam. For several years he pretended to be the son of a billionaire diamond dealer looking for true love…
The 2022 Netflix documentary is based on the true story of Simon Leviev as told by three of his many victims. Simon would have cheated dozens (even hundreds) of women out of loot estimated at nearly $10 million.
And the craziest thing is that his victims saw absolutely nothing coming and even gave the money on purpose.
So the question is, how is it possible for someone like him to fool so many people for so many years? And what can you learn from it, either to avoid being manipulated or to be more successful in life?
If you wish, you can also view this case study right here.
A devilish sales funnel
If you had met Simon Leviev on Tinder a few years ago, it’s a safe bet it would have worked. And if he had contacted you to offer you a first date at a bar at his hotel that same evening, you probably would have gone there, as dozens of people have done.
You have just taken a first step into the Machiavellian gears.
And yet nothing special happened. Because the Tinder scammer has developed a precise and clear process where each step brings you one step closer to their goal and prevents you from getting out of it.
In the business world, this is called the sales funnel (or conversion funnel). It’s the idea that the seller starts by getting the prospect’s attention. Then we will arouse interest in him with our solution. And finally, the prospect becomes a customer through a purchase.
With the Tinder scammer, we can easily imagine that their goal is not to sell a product, but to extort money from you.
There are very sophisticated sales funnels these days that, when done well, have incredible conversion rates.
But above all, this principle also applies to other areas (outside the economy) because it demands universal human behavior.
Would you consider buying a packet of pasta from Bricolex or Castorama?
Because this simple pack of pasta innocently displayed in a supermarket actually follows very clear marketing rules. It fills a real need. you want noodles And it’s sold in a place where you go and get that need. When you go shopping, you go to the supermarket. So you have to sell the noodles.
If your product doesn’t meet a real need, there’s no point in setting up a sales funnel. It will not work.
Lustucru or Panzani therefore know that their pasta meets a need because they have studied their destination. But they also know that to fill that need, their goal is going to a supermarket.
Simon Leviev did the same. He studied his target (single women in this case).
What is your need? Thanks to Disney formatting and rosewater movies floating around everywhere, it’s easy to imagine a woman dreaming about her prince charming. Today, Prince Charming does not have a castle and cavaliers at his service, but a private jet, a Rolls Royce and assistants.
Where are these women trying to fill this need? About dating apps with Tinder in mind because it’s a juggernaut in the love business.
In short, Simon Leviev lures his prospects with an offer they want (Prince Charming) and by presenting his offer in a strategic place (Tinder).
In 1971, Professor Dennis Regan of Cornell University in the United States conducted an experiment. Two people were placed in a room to give their opinion on artistic works. It was actually staged because only one of those two people was actually the subject of the experiment. The other was an accomplice.
Eventually, the accomplice escaped and then returned to the room either empty-handed or with two bottles of Coke. He offered one over experience.
At the very end of this experience, the accomplice finally offered the volunteers to buy lottery tickets.
And imagine: when the subject was offered a Coke, he bought, on average, twice as many lottery tickets (for an amount that was significantly more than the price of a Coke).
In his book Influence and Manipulation, Robert Cialdini calls this reciprocity.
The rule of reciprocity states that one must strive to repay the benefits received from others. When someone does us a favor, we have to do them a favor., When a friend sends us a gift for their birthday, we don’t forget to do the same for theirs, If we receive an invitation, we have to send it back
In short, if you receive something without expecting anything in return, you will be more inclined to buy later when an offer is made to you.
This is a technique widely used on the internet with “free” e-books designed to make you responsible for purchasing training later.
We also see this in the system of free samples or small gifts that clubs offer through La Poste just a few days before they ask you for a donation by check.
In the Tinder Scammer, Simon Leviev uses this principle of reciprocity to perfection. For several weeks he will offer his future victims literally everything. Travel, clothes, restaurants, accommodation… Everything is allowed! That way, the day he asks them for money, they will feel in debt and more likely to give in.
That’s it ! You have written blog posts that your target audience will read. They downloaded your eBook and you regularly send them quality content. you did everything well
But you still have a problem: you don’t buy when you present your sales page. They hesitate, they have no money this month, they will come back to pay in three days.
And that’s okay.
They’re missing one last ingredient: urgency.
Do you also feel compelled to pull out that credit card in your pocket when you see that there are only three seats left for that price on the flight that takes you on holiday? Or if there are only three copies left of the book you want? If the training you still want to buy will soon be unavailable for many months? Or when will the latest iPhone soon be out of stock?
Whether Amazon, Air France or Apple, they understood that.
Sometimes, to get your prospects to buy, they need a little kick in the butt. And the best way to do that is to create urgency. If there is an emergency, it is because there may be a loss at the end.
But people hate losing something.
Above all, don’t take an option away from them. If there is no more stock, no more space or no more opportunity to buy the formation, then you have lost. It was an opportunity that will never come again. Never. phew
Once again, Simon Leviev understood this very well. He sets up urgency in two places in his sales funnel.
First to force victims to fall into his trap. During the first exchange on Tinder, he explains that he is only in the victim’s town in the evening, travels a lot and is leaving the next morning. If she wants to meet him, it’s now or never. And it works wonderfully! At the same time, who would miss the opportunity to meet the one who looks like Prince Charming? It would be a great loss!
Second moment: Several weeks later, when he asks his relatives for money. There his enemies are hot on his heels. You try to kill him. He needs money immediately to escape but cannot use his credit card because he could be followed. If he doesn’t get the money, he will die. And for once, that is a great loss for our victims!
We can clearly see that in the two key moments of his sales tunnel (when his prospects need to take action), the Tinder scammer creates an urgency to put pressure on them and in a sense, demands a “yes” answer.
The result of this hyper-optimized sales funnel
The result of this hyper-optimized sales funnel was that Simon Leviev’s victims had virtually no chance of escaping him.
I don’t know if he was aware of the power of the marketing tools he was using or not, but in any case what he did was remarkably (and Machiavellian) well executed.
So the great lessons from this story are:
- Create a product or service that your audience wants. Without this, there is no point in going any further. If Simon Leviev wasn’t a charming prince, he wouldn’t have had many people to rip off;
- Likewise, position your bait where your target audience is. At Bricolex we don’t sell pasta;
- Give if you want to receive. If you want to convert leads into customers in your sales funnel, be generous from the start by offering lots of value, free samples, ebooks, whitepapers… you name it! The possibilities are limitless;
- Don’t hesitate to squeeze everything a little. For example, a limited duration or stash works very well;
- Above all, watch out for misleading appearances on social media and dating sites. If it’s too good to be true, it definitely is.