Just like another 45.8 million viewers, our Family Lawyers have keenly tuned in to Netflix’s latest documentary hit ‘The Tinder Swindler’ this past week. While the sordid tale may seem fantastical to some viewers, the financial abuse depicted in this documentary is, just like the film-favourite of Cecilie, a ‘tale as old as time’ for us.
If you haven’t caught the doco yet, it follows the story of Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte as they uncover the lies and financial abuse that professional con-artist Simon Leviev perpetrated against them. Leviev met each of the women on the popular dating application ‘Tinder’. After an initial ‘match’ he would take them on a luxurious date, complete with a private jet flight to stay in 5-star hotels and dine in world-class restaurants, regaling them with tales of his lavish lifestyle as the son of a diamond magnate. Once the women were hooked on his fairy-tale life, he would bombard them with constant contact and extravagant gifts to win their affection and trust. Once a relationship was developed, he would claim he was experiencing issues with his ‘enemies’ in the business world, claiming he needed quick funds to escape anonymously and ensure his safety. This saw the women take out, and max out, high-limit credits cards, as well as hefty personal loans that extended well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Despite his promises, the money he took from them was never repaid.
In Australia, financial abuse is a recognised form of family violence under section 4AB of the Family Law Act. Financial abuse can take many forms in everyday life, such as:
- controlling household spending
- withholding money
- restricting or denying access to bank accounts
- refusing to include or discuss someone in financial decisions
- preventing someone from obtaining work or continuing to study
- encouraging or forcing someone to guarantee a loan or take out a loan or credit cards in their own name
- selling someone’s possessions without their permission
Financial abuse is often accompanied by other forms of family violence, such as a pattern of generally controlling and coercive behaviour, with threats of violence or actual violence resulting when a victim resists compliance or questions what is occurring.
Anyone can experience financial abuse, regardless of age, gender, occupation or social class. We understand that financial abuse is a serious barrier to someone wanting to separate, on both practical financial and psychological fronts. We unfortunately deal with this issue regularly, and can assist you to develop a plan to leave and rectify issues caused by financial abuse once you have left.